On Saturday, January 29th, 2011 Queer Azaadi Mumbai (QAM) returns to Mumbai with a march by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals and groups, along with families, friends and supporters, to celebrate being part of this city, and to call on the government to give us the same rights guaranteed to all under the Indian constitution, whose promulgation we celebrate on Republic Day, January 26th.
The March will be from August Kranti Maidan to Girgaum Chowpatty, a route with great historical significance in our national freedom struggle. We will be meeting in August Kranti Maidan from 3 pm onwards, and starting the March at 4 pm.
Among the rights that queer people are calling for is the right to marry and enjoy the stability and protection of family life. Marriage is deeply engrained in Indian culture. Single people are looked at with suspicion or pity. Even strangers feel able to ask you casually if you are married, and feel sorry for you if you say you are not. When most gays and lesbian children come out to their families, the one biggest fear that their parents have is how will they manage without a long term partner.
Marriage also has practical aspects. Without marriage gays and lesbian couples cannot open a joint bank account, cannot apply for a home loan to buy a house together, cannot take out life insurance policies or make wills in each other’s benefit. If they work in companies which have employee family benefits, they usually cannot extent them to their same sex partner. If either of them falls sick and has to go to hospital, the partner does not have automatic rights to visit them.
Without these benefits it is very difficult for gays and lesbians to form long term relationships. Even when couples are in committed relationships and want to live together, the lack of protections often forces them apart. Because they can’t hope to marry their same sex partners, and because they are afraid of living alone, many gays and lesbians choose to have a heterosexual marriage, even if this is false and unfair to their opposite sex partners.
But is marriage always the answer? Some activists are against it because they argue that marriage is a flawed institution, which gays and lesbians should not try to replicate. They argue for civil partnerships, or alternative legal structures that give the practical benefits of marriage, without the religious and patriarchal structures that inherent in the meaning of marriage today. And beyond this too there are the objections of religious conservatives, who will have problems extending the definition of marriage to same sex couples.
For all these reasons, same sex marriage raises important issues today. This is why, the day before the March, QAM is organising a panel discussion on same sex marriage. This discussion will take place in Marathi and will be at Copper Gate hall, next to Candies restaurant, near Pali Naka, Bandra, 3-5 pm on Friday, January 28th.
For more details on the Same Sex Marriage Panel discussion on January 28th, and the March on January 29th, contact Pallav Patankar at 9619012251.