Updated: Jul 8, 2021
As a woman growing up in a conservative religious family, it took me a long while to realise that human rights does not only refer to those that I think are ‘ok’, but these are rights that ensure equality, equity, and freedom to all persons living in any society.
One freedom I enjoy without question is to marry a man I love. This heterosexual marriage will be considered a ‘perfect marriage’ as defined by the Catholic Church's celibate, single men who make divine rules inspired by a God whose most important commandment was to ‘love one another’ with no exceptions against people of less common SOGIs (Sexual Orientation & Gender Identities).
The Commune recently reported that Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) opposed same-sex marriage in response to a petition filed at the Delhi High Court on the rights of different SOGIs to register their union under the Indian Law. The Bishops’ argument that homosexuality is unnatural reminded me that so is religion and priesthood. There is neither any documented evidence of religion existing in Nature, nor consecrated male priesthood found naturally existing anywhere. Nature, however, in all her wisdom, created homosexuality not only in humans but also in about 1500 species of animals which include lions and penguins – none of whom have been marginalised by their respective species.
Bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios stated that ‘The Church believes in natural activities and it will always stand for that…’ while living in a house made of cement and bricks, travelling in very unnatural cars, supporting the construction of mighty churches and cathedrals dedicated to a Saviour who was born in a manger.
Muhammad Arif, the chairman of Center for Harmony and Peace, also gave a statement to The Commune in which he wanted to remind us that homosexuality and same-sex marriage was ‘Western Culture’ and that our society is not ready to accept it at this moment. I realised in that instant, that he was presenting to us an example of himself – dressed in a western suit and shirt – that just like western clothing is accepted in our society, so will the idea of same-sex marriage. It is only a matter of time.
Mr Arif stated that Indian culture supports only the tradition of marriage between man and woman, although ancient Indian scriptures have not just mentioned homosexuality, but the origins of some of the great mythical characters were attributed to same-sex unions. The Catholic Church, too, has insisted upon male-female marriage through a very painful document, ‘Humanae Vitae’. What these 'religions of peace' have failed to see is the suffering of those who were born with characteristics that challenge their rule. These religious leaders have failed to recognise that the reason our tradition only focussed on man and woman is because the rest of the SOGIs had to live in hiding, love in hiding, and suffer in silence in a society that hated them for the characteristics they were born with.
Homosexuality is not a modern phenomenon. Nor is it a Western one. And neither is it the only characteristic of a human being that makes them different from the majority. But society has always been fixated with sex and sexuality in a distorted manner. When a man loves another man with his consent and does no harm to society around them, it is considered deviant behaviour. But when a man forces intercourse on a woman, violently rapes her or beats her, society ignores it as ‘normal, personal marital issues’. Who is really deviant then? The men who live in love? Or the man who lives by violence?
My mother, being a conservative Catholic, used to consider homosexuality wrong. When I explained to her that just like it is impossible for her to feel romantic attraction to another woman, in the same way, it is impossible for a homosexual person to feel attraction to a person of the opposite gender. Confused, she asked me, “So, do homosexuals also get married and remain faithful to each other like a heterosexual couple?” “Yes,” I replied, “They love each other, support each other, and also raise children together.” “Well,” my mother replied, “Then why should anybody have a problem with that?”
Keeping our prejudice aside, if we simply think of same-sex marriage as humans choosing to love whom they want, to peacefully exist in society, and be recognised as a couple, it can change our perception of the LGBTQ community.
Jesus’ powerful commandment, ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’ invites us to be non-judgemental and welcoming to all people. There are no conditions applied. If we can love those who hate us, it is far easier to love those who simply desire the acceptance and dignity that the rest of us enjoy.
As Fr Thomas Ninan, member of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) said, “We are often loaded with a lot of baggage and prejudice, from our own backgrounds, which more often than not then become a barrier in our attitudes towards them…Our journey of inclusiveness begins where love is experienced and witnessed in the most simple and humane ways.”
Rachael Alphonso Co-founder, Rainbow Catholics India.