The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has officially backed the government’s position against the recognition of same-sex marriage, dealing a blow to the hopes of the country’s LGBT community. The announcement comes months after the RSS’s chief, Mohan Bhagwat, expressed support for the LGBT community’s right to have their own “private and social space”. Although Bhagwat did not mention same-sex marriage specifically, his comments had raised expectations that the BJP might reconsider its opposition to it.
However, Dattatreya Hosabale, a senior official of the RSS, has now said that “marriage can only take place between persons of opposite genders, we agree with the government’s stance on same-sex marriage”. The government has opposed same-sex marriage and urged the Supreme Court to reject challenges to the current legal framework lodged by LGBT couples. The case will be heard by a five-judge bench starting April 18.
The RSS is a powerful Hindu group with millions of active members across India and overseas. It played a key role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power. India decriminalized homosexuality in 2018 when it scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex, but same-sex marriage remains a taboo topic in the socially conservative country of 1.4 billion people.
The Modi government has argued that any change to the legal structure of marriage should be the domain of the elected parliament, not the court. The government’s opposition to same-sex marriage has been challenged by four gay couples who argue that without legal recognition, they are denied access to rights such as those linked to medical consent, pensions, adoption, or even club memberships.
The LGBT community and their supporters have expressed disappointment at the RSS’s stance on same-sex marriage, which they say undermines the progress made towards equality and social acceptance of the community. The Supreme Court’s verdict on the case will be closely watched by both sides of the debate.