The uniqueness of same-sex marriages

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The uniqueness of same-sex marriages

Monday, 15 March 2021 | Prafull Goradia

The uniqueness of same-sex marriages

However odd these incidents may appear to traditional people, a free society should allow people to do what they prefer

Same-sex marriage is novel and different from the traditional sacramental or contractual coming together of a man and a woman. It would be a union legitimised by religion or law between two persons. It enables the couple to bear children who are, therefore, legitimate and not otherwise. Giving birth or procreation is a duty for the perpetuation of the human race. A primary function of marriage is legitimate procreation.

There are men and women who live together without being married, especially in Europe, but hesitate to produce children. There are others who do not hesitate. In Gujarat’s Vadodara city, nearly 30 years ago, a leading lawyer introduced a novelty called “maîtri karaar” (friendship contract). It laid down in a legal document all the necessary conditions about the future of the man’s property and assets as well as other commitments. From an orthodox family, he had been married when very young. Subsequently, he was educated as a lawyer. His wife remained the woman she was expected to be.

The mental or intellectual gulf between the two grew wider. Their two children remained with the wife but he maintained them all, though he lived separately with a younger lady whom he had befriended. To reassure herself of future security, she requested for a contract and the lawyer acceded. Following their example, several others in Gujarat adopted this contract method. Seldom did the parties to the contract procreate; in that they did not fulfill their racial duty to nature. I have come across stranger incidents.

Two young ladies, one very distantly related to me and the other of Chinese origin, resided in Canada at the time. They became such close friends that they got married. In due course, the Indian met an Englishman, a bachelor, who had a great desire to have children. With the consent of the Chinese spouse, the Indian agreed and had two children. A few years later, the Chinese also met someone with whom there grew a desire to have children. Last heard, the Sino-American combination had one child. The same-sex couple and their children stay together whereas the fathers visit them according to mutual convenience.

However odd these incidents may appear to traditional people, a free society should allow people to do what they prefer. But that does not mean that the current laws should have to accommodate new oddities. For such people, the legislatures should make separate laws so that the pioneers concerned do not feel insecure or outside the pale of society. Say, merely for illustrating my contention, let same-sex coming together be under a law called a ‘unity contract’ or anything else but not marriage.

Experts may have several explanations for what in the old days would have been called perversities, but are now sympathised with. In my own lay observation, homosexuality develops normally due to the denial of access or exposure to the other gender. Boarding schools occasionally report such cases and, lately, irregularities have come to the surface in religious institutions, too. Again, going by my experience of being an only child, I suffered from extreme shyness in mixing up with girls. Here, my parents should have noted this and played a part in bringing me out of my reserve. All they needed to have done is to clearly tell me that if I wanted to talk to a girl, I had to first say hello to her. I somehow had the notion that if I took the initiative, the girl might misunderstand and feel that I was taking liberties, which was so wrong! Nevertheless, I remained safe from any diversion.

Another unusual experience I have witnessed is of my aunt. About the time I was born, she fell in love with an older doctor. He was married in his village before completing his studies. In due course, he and his wife had three healthy children. The mental or intellectual chasm between them had grown considerably. Basically, the doctor’s problem was similar to that of the Vadodara lawyer. He, therefore, responded to my aunt, they became friends and remained so for years. When I was about eight years old, they came to see my grandfather for permission to marry. If he did not object, they would take a train to Goa and get married there. The reason was that the Bombay Provincial Law had prohibited bigamy by 1945 whereas the Goan rules permitted it.

They went to Goa, got married and, remarkably, all lived together until death did them part: That is the two wives, six children and the doctor husband who happily survived until he was 83. As I grew up, I awoke to a contradiction in the Bombay Provincial Law. My aunt and uncle had to go to Goa to escape the ban on bigamy but thousands others are in law exempted from it and permitted the privilege of polygamy. This discrimination is now prevalent across India. Either polygamy should be allowed for all under a distinct, separate law or, preferably, it should be prohibited for all citizens of the country. But different privileges to different people under the law are discriminatory and wrong.

(The writer is a well-known columnist and an author. The views expressed are personal.)

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