Understanding the Social Impact of Same-Sex Marriage in India: A Closer Look

Understanding the Social Impact of Same-Sex Marriage in India: A Closer Look

Author name: Asmi Kedare, a student at Nari Gursahani Law College.


Same-sex marriage has been a contentious issue globally, including in India. The social impact of same-sex marriage in India is a multifaceted and evolving phenomenon that intersects with cultural, religious, and legal contexts This article delves into the legal intricacies surrounding same-sex marriage in India. It examines the historical background, judicial developments, legislative responses, and societal attitudes towards the recognition of same-sex unions. By analysing existing research, legislative developments, and anecdotal evidence, this abstract offers insights into the potential benefits and challenges of embracing marriage equality. 

Furthermore, it explores the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in their pursuit of marriage equality within the Indian legal framework. Moreover, it explores the role of education, media representation, and community engagement in fostering acceptance and understanding of diverse sexual orientations. Ultimately, this abstract underscore the importance of empathy, inclusivity, and respect for human rights in navigating the complex terrain of social change in India.


The concept of same-sex marriage challenges traditional societal norms and raises questions about equality and human rights. The recognition and legal acceptance of same-sex marriage have been subjects of extensive debate globally, including in India. While numerous countries have legalized same-sex marriage, India’s legal landscape has been complex and evolving in this regard. In India, where traditional values and cultural practices play a significant role in shaping society, the issue of same-sex marriage has been met with both resistance and support. 

This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the social impact of same-sex marriage in India, exploring its historical background, current legal status, arguments for and against, public opinion, impact on the LGBTQ+ community, challenges faced by same-sex couples, international perspective, and the future of same-sex marriage in India.


India’s legal framework concerning marriage is primarily governed by personal laws based on religion, including Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and others, alongside civil laws such as the Special Marriage Act, 1954. None of these laws explicitly recognize or allow same-sex marriage. Additionally, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, has been interpreted by courts to encompass the right to privacy and dignity. These interpretations have been pivotal in discussions surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and same-sex relationships.


India has a rich history of diverse sexualities and gender identities, with references to same-sex relationships found in ancient texts and scriptures. However, it is important to note that these historical references do not necessarily indicate the existence of same-sex marriages as they are understood today. Same-sex marriage as a legal and recognized institution is a relatively modern concept that India has yet to fully embrace.

The legal recognition of same-sex relationships and marriage is a relatively new concept in India, with the decriminalization of homosexuality occurring in 2018. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgment in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, striking down parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized consensual same-sex relations. The judgment was celebrated as a significant victory for LGBTQ+ rights, marking a shift towards greater legal recognition and acceptance. The historical background of same-sex marriage in India thus reflects a shift in societal attitudes and legal frameworks.


Although homosexuality is no longer criminalized in India, same-sex marriage is not yet legally recognized. The Supreme Court of India, in its 2018 ruling, decriminalized homosexuality and recognized the rights of individuals to engage in consensual same-sex relationships. LGBTQ+ individuals continue to face social stigma, discrimination, and legal challenges in asserting their right to marry a person of the same sex or enjoy the legal benefits that come with it, such as inheritance rights, joint property ownership, adoption rights and spousal benefits. This legal gap has significant implications for the LGBTQ+ community in India. While some states and local authorities have shown support for LGBTQ+ rights through progressive policies and initiatives, the absence of uniform legal recognition poses challenges for same-sex couples.

Several petitions have been filed in Indian courts seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriage. However, the judiciary has been cautious in its approach, considering various socio-cultural and legal factors. The absence of specific legislation addressing same-sex marriage leaves the matter open to interpretation and debate.


Supporters of legalizing same-sex marriage in India argue that it is a matter of basic human rights and equality. They believe that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a form of discrimination and a violation of their fundamental rights. Legalizing same-sex marriage would provide same-sex couples with the same legal rights and protections enjoyed by heterosexual couples, such as inheritance rights, joint property ownership, and access to social security benefits. It would also send a powerful message of acceptance and inclusivity, fostering a more tolerant and progressive society.


Opponents of legalizing same-sex marriage in India often cite religious and cultural reasons for their stance. They argue that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman, and allowing same-sex couples to marry would undermine traditional values and religious teachings. Some also express concerns about the potential impact on family structures and the upbringing of children in same-sex households. Additionally, there are those who believe that the legalization of same-sex marriage is not a priority in a country grappling with other pressing social and economic issues.


Societal attitudes towards same-sex marriage in India vary widely. While there is growing acceptance and support, particularly among younger generations and urban areas, conservative norms and religious beliefs still influence public opinion. Surveys and polls indicate that younger generations tend to be more accepting of same-sex marriage, while older generations are more resistant to the idea. Public opinion is influenced by various factors, including education, exposure to LGBTQ+ issues, religious beliefs, and cultural norms. It is important to foster open dialogue and awareness to promote a better understanding of the social impact of same-sex marriage in India.

LGBTQ+ individuals often face family and societal pressure to conform to heteronormative standards, making it challenging to openly express their identities and seek legal recognition for their relationships.

Religious institutions also play a significant role in shaping attitudes towards same-sex marriage. While some religious leaders and groups advocate for inclusion and equality, others maintain traditional interpretations that oppose same-sex relationships. Balancing religious freedoms with individual rights remains a contentious issue in the discourse on same-sex marriage.


Legal recognition of same-sex marriage would have a profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community in India. It would provide a sense of validation and societal acceptance, allowing same-sex couples to celebrate their love and commitment openly. It would also offer legal protections and rights, addressing issues such as inheritance, healthcare decision-making, and child custody. 

Same-sex marriage would contribute to the visibility and normalization of LGBTQ+ relationships, challenging societal stigmas and stereotypes. However, it is important to recognize that same-sex marriage alone cannot solve all the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, and broader systemic changes are needed to ensure true equality and inclusivity.


Despite the decriminalization of same-sex relationships, same-sex couples in India continue to face numerous challenges. The lack of legal recognition and protection leaves them vulnerable to discrimination and prejudice. Same-sex couples often struggle to access basic rights and benefits that heterosexual couples take for granted. They face difficulties in obtaining healthcare, insurance, and housing, as well as facing societal pressures and rejection from their families. These challenges highlight the urgent need for legal recognition of same-sex marriage and the importance of creating a more inclusive and supportive society.


The global movement towards legalizing same-sex marriage has seen significant progress in recent years. Many countries, including several in the West, have recognized same-sex marriage as a legal institution and have witnessed positive social changes as a result. International examples can provide valuable insights into the potential impact and benefits of legalizing same-sex marriage in India. However, it is crucial to consider the unique cultural, religious, and social context of India when evaluating the international perspective. India must find its own path towards acceptance and equality, considering its diverse population and complex societal dynamics.


The issue of same-sex marriage in India is complex and multifaceted, reflecting the diverse opinions and values of its society. While progress has been made with the decriminalization of same-sex relationships, the legal recognition of same-sex marriage remains a significant challenge. The social impact of same-sex marriage is far-reaching, affecting not only the LGBTQ+ community but also broader societal attitudes towards equality and human rights. As India continues to evolve and progress, it is crucial to engage in open and respectful dialogue, fostering understanding and empathy. The future of same-sex marriage in India will be shaped by the collective efforts of individuals, communities, and policymakers who strive for a more inclusive and equal society for all.

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