‘This government has done positive things, we got the Transgender Persons (protection of rights) Act under this government. Dheere-dheere hota hai.’
Maya Sharma was one of the 21 petitioners in the Supreme Court seeking legal sanction for same-sex marriages.
An LGBTQ activist staying in Vadodara, she strongly believes the community should be given a chance to choose their families on their own terms and be given the right to marry.
However, the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench on Tuesday, October 17, 2023, turned down the plea, saying it was Parliament’s remit to make laws, not the court’s.
Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com spoke to Maya Sharma soon after the verdict to gauge her reaction.
Your first reaction to the Supreme Court judgment?
I am not very happy with the judgment as there have been no rights given to same sex people who want to get married.
It is a very sad day.
Although I must add, the discussion of the judges was of a very high quality while giving out the verdict.
We got nothing out of the judgment. We are back to square one.
What were you expecting?
We were expecting our rights to be given. It is again left to Parliament and formation of committees, which is not right in this day and age.
There should have been clear-cut guidelines and we were excited about getting a positive judgment but unfortunately that did not happen.
You have been fighting for this issue for very long. Almost 30 years, right?
Yes, we were one of the petitioners.
Don’t you think since courts cannot make laws and it is only the government that can do so, the Supreme Court did right in avoiding judicial overreach?
The courts and Parliament are putting the ball in each other’s court.
But we have high hopes that something positive will come out as people are supporting us (in huge numbers).
Could a clause have been added in the secular Special Marriages Act making marriage gender-neutral, that way no religious orthodoxy would have felt offended?
We were expecting a clear-cut judgment on this issue.
There are a large number of people who want this law for them. We are very sad.
Do you anything good to have come out of this legal process?
As I said, the discussion was of high quality and we were hopeful when the judgment dictation started.
Since the court has thrown the ball back in the government’s court, are you hopeful?
Yes, this government has done positive things like, we got the Transgender Persons (protection of rights) Act under this government. Dheere-dheere hota hai (things move slowly).
I am hopeful something good will come out.
Is the collective conscience not ready in our society for same-sex marriage?
I don’t think so because many people do accept same sex relations and this is true especially among youngsters.
They are open for discussion and families too have opened up to discuss.
If a gay partner is hospitalised, then the partner cannot sign as a guarantor. Were you hoping to get at least such rights?
We can only hope and cannot do more.
The judgment stated that same sex marriage is not an urban and elite phenomenon, that itself was a big step, isn’t it?
This was a small part of the judgment, as we were hoping we will get something bigger than such statements.
These things have always existed in our society and people always knew it.
We were hoping to get the same sex marriage judgment in a clear-cut manner.
It took very long for your fight to decriminalise Section 377 (homosexuality), I think more than half a century, so how many years do you expect this fight to continue?
Not very long, and we will keep fighting.
You will see same sex marriage (law) in the very near future.
Quest for law is one thing and societal change is another. The law has not given you the right, but what about society?
Lots of changes in society have taken place, for sure.
Families discuss these things openly now. Youngsters are coming in big way to support us and this change has been happening in the last 5-7 years.
This was missing earlier and I am happy to say families talk about same sex relations and want to know more about our issues.
The corporate world has seen a lot of inclusivity, which is another big positive sign. These are positive changes in society.
What would have changed if same sex marriage had been legalised?
Lot of changes would have happened.
Why do people marry? People marry because they get rights within the legal frame work of Indian law and the Indian Constitution.
All rights are bonding to marriage. Now, we (same-sex couples) don’t have insurance rights or renting home rights too.
Marriage comes with a package of rights, and that has been denied to us today.
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