Point Of View

Enquiring the ‘Marriage Question’

Paloma Chaterji

The fight for marital rights of the non-binaries is indeed a liberating attempt, but being a feminist what bothers me is whether a romantic and/or sexual relation should always be solemnised in marriage? Although the existence of marriage rights irrespective of one’s sexuality does not necessarily mean one must get married, marriage could exist as yet another legal provision which can be exercised if required. However, if legalised would not queer marriage be turned into a societal convention that one must follow if willing to live together especially in a country like India, where one’s sexual relationship must be ‘governed’ and ‘granted’ by society? Can we really escape the convention? Can marriage in India ever function as a choice? Besides, when one has enough education (not qualification) and strength to recognise one’s sexuality as queer and takes the next step to live with one’s chosen partner isn’t that a slap on the face of patriarchy and hetero-normativity fathered by patriarchy? If so, then why by embracing marriage will one retrace back to patriarchal conventions of societal sanction?

Being a heterosexual female, often considered ‘feminine’ because of conventionally female features, and thus, easily accepted by society, it is probably easy for me to interrogate the ‘marriage question’ of the queer. However, it is this heterosexual identity that makes me question as I and many like me are forced and will be forced to follow the course of marriage if willing to live with a partner. We, therefore, irrespective of our sexual preferences stand at the same threshold of freedom. However, if probed from a different angle queer marriage might have the ability to strip the institution of marriage of its patriarchal cloak. Flaunting and celebrating what exactly is forbidden by the traditionalist discourse of marriage, can be a scathing attack on tradition and religion along with being an ultimate cultural shock to moral policing. Nevertheless, what needs to be asked is whether the ostentation of marriage will mean to be redefined by the old parameters of religion and society along with the bourgeois principles or if such ‘out of the box’ marriage could free the institution of marriage from the restrictive boundaries coloured by every conventional form?

Perhaps the movement for queer marriage rights is the first step towards the ultimate dissolution of the institution of marriage in the years to come since it bears the potential to begin a chronology of movements that subtly, intelligently, and gradually loosen the grip of stereotypes and conventions. These questions however, remain vague if not answered from the perspective of law.

A major function served by marriage is legal bondage. When Menaka Guruswamy, the lawyer fighting for same-sex marriage, highlights the necessity of marriage in order to buy house, medical insurance, and the likes for her family, she rightly insists on the provisions offered if legally married. The question then is how else will such provisions be available without marriage or is the Indian law or law itself needs to be broadened to accommodate such interests? What if two people who do not share any biological and romantic or sexual relationship wish to buy a property, or an insurance together? How does law facilitate it without compromising on security? Can law be considered unbiased if based on certain social conditioning such as marriage? If not, how do we approach and address law and the question of rights without compromising on our respective choices?

[About the author–Paloma Chaterji is a research scholar at St Xavier’s University, Kolkata, India. She also works as a Guest Faculty in English at a university in India. Feminism and gender are some of the key areas of her interest.] 

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Vol 56, No. 5, Jul 30 - Aug 5, 2023