The Supreme Court of India (SC) is hearing arguments on legalising same-sex marriages. The hearing is being live-streamed. On Thursday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the Union Government, said that permitting same-sex marriages would be to the detriment of others. Mehta also argued that the state has a role to play in regulating personal relationships.
Watch the full exclusive interview of Manvendra Singh Gohil with Vibes Of India’s Deepal Trivedi:
The world’s first openly gay prince and human rights activist, Manvendra Singh Gohil, spoke to Vibes Of India on discrimination faced by the homosexual community in India. Gohil, 57, the king of Rajpipla who runs a charity, Lakshya Trust, which works with the LGBT community, lamented that India, despite being the world’s largest democracy, is still hesitating in legalising same-sex marriages even though it has decriminalised homosexuality.
“Legalising same-sex marriages will give individuals dignity and a chance to live like any other married couple. It will provide them with stability and psychological support,” Gohil said. “Even mental health professionals in India have filed a petition in favour of same-sex marriage, emphasising on the importance of legalising it,” he said.
Also Read: How Gay Indians Are Flying To New York And London To Get Married
Unable to hide his disappointment at the irony – after all, India is the birthplace of Kamasutra which has a chapter on homosexuality – Gohil said it was appalling that our education doesn’t include studies on sex at the grassroots level, or for that matter, at any level. “You may be highly educated, but with regards to issues that concern LGBT community, you could be highly illiterate,” he said. More than anything, said Gohil, the most important aspect in the entire debate is not the society at large or any institution, but of self-acceptance. “Accepting who you are is the first step. Be natural, be what you are, and just go with the flow,” he said.
When pointed out that India, despite being the most populated country in the world, does not accept homosexuality the way it should, Gohil said that despite homosexuality getting decriminalised in 2018, there are “people being thrown out of their homes by parents the moment they open their mouth (on being homosexual)”. Placing his trust on India’s Constitution, he said, “I would say a big thank you to our Constitution. I think the Indian Constitution is the world’s best Constitution as it gives equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their creed, caste, race, religion and sexuality.”
WESTERN CONCEPT OR A MISCONCEPTION?
When prodded that the Indian culture, and indeed two of our most important texts – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata – have examples of same-sex and third gender character such as Shikhandi, and yet some people dismiss homosexuality as an elitist, urban and Western concept, Gohil said that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat himself said that homosexuality existed in our culture. “He (Bhagwat) said that when Krishna was fighting the battle in the Kurukshetra, there were these two people from the Kauravas’ side who he knew were in a same-sex relationship. Bhagwat is a learned man and he has obviously studied the scriptures. So yes, there are indeed such examples,” he said.
Also Read: Maya Sharma’s New Book Explores The Lives of Marginalised LGBT Women in Gujarat
Gohil said the Centre’s argument that legalising same-sex marriage will create “societal upheaval” was baseless. “They (the Centre) have just made statements based on what they think is correct. I’m sure the court is asking for evidence and there is no way they will be able to prove that it’s creating havoc,” he said.
Gohil pointed out that Indians who have settled in the US, the UK or elsewhere in Europe decades ago still “live in denial” when it comes to homosexuality. “Their mindset is still that of 1950s; they are very rigid, very conservative when it comes to freedom for their children. They haven’t moved on,” he said.
Gohil, who calls himself a proud Hindu, said his own Kshatriya community has ostracised him but overall, the Gujarati community hasn’t been so dismissive. “A popular Gujarati magazine published my article on the topic and it reached the Gujarati-speaking population even outside India. A few Gujarati associations I met applauded my work and were very appreciative of the fact that there’s somebody in the country who has spoken the truth,” he said.
While there has been no sex-mapping of population in India at any level, a universal study by an expert, Alfred Kinsey, says for any given population, sexual minority population would range between five and ten per cent. And taking into account India’s population, which has recently overtaken China’s, it is estimated that the sexual minority population in India will be bigger than a few countries’ entire population. “We are in millions,” Gohil said, “no doubt about it. It’s just that people are hiding and they’re hiding because society is ostracising them. Society is subjecting them to discrimination, and therefore they are just in the closet, they don’t want to even talk about it. They don’t want to accept themselves. But the population is definitely there.”
Also Read: How Urvashi Vaid Came to be One of America’s Most Eminent LGBT Activists
THREE DECADES TO ACCEPT HIMSELF
Citing his own example, Gohil said it took him 32 years “to accept myself”. “Self-acceptance will definitely help you and it will help others also, as we try to be as honest and truthful as possible to ourselves and to others. Honesty does entail a lot of struggles and challenges but in the end, honesty wins. You are not doing anything wrong. You are absolutely normal and natural as anyone else. Self-love is very important. If you love yourself and you are accepting yourself, then half the battle is won,” he said.
Coming back to the need to legalise same-sex marriages, Gohil said that it will help not only the couples but also their parents. “People tell me that homosexuality has been decriminalised in 2018. You can live with your partner, so why do you need a marriage? I say we need a marriage because till date, parents are emotionally blackmailing their children and forcing them to get married to someone from the opposite sex. And most of them end up in a divorce. Who’s benefiting from that? Once you legalise same-sex marriage, at least you will be having the right to legally live like a spouse. You will be able to eliminate so much suffering,” he said.
Gohil, who has been educated in Mumbai, recalled the resentment and anger against him in his native Rajpipla when he went public with his sexual orientation. “On the day I made it public, my effigies were burnt and the people actually formed an effigy-burning committee. Fifteen years down the line, the same committee approached me, and now I’m their consultant. So, there is change.”
Also Read: How Is Congress Party Promoting LGBT Inclusion?
Ruling out a career in politics – “I am not made for politics because I’m honest, and honesty and politics don’t get along” – Gohil, however, said it’s important to do “political advocacy”. “Whichever party is in power, we need to work with the politicians because, after all, they are the ones who are ultimately going to decide. There are some politicians in India who have invited me to campaign for them and they have promised that they will help in our causes. And there have been some who have kept their promises. I have politics in my blood but I would not like to venture into serious politics. that’s not my cup of tea,” Gohil said.
Watch the full interview here
Also Read: Biggest Reward Is Serving Gujarat’s People Through SWAGAT: PM