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France could be the 14th country to allow gay marriage,India should follow suit

Written by Radha Kapoor Sharma | Published: April 20, 2013 2:41:28 am

France could be the 14th country to allow gay marriage,India should follow suit

Passions are aflame in France over the same-sex marriage bill that is currently being examined by the country’s legislature. Dubbed “marriage for all” by its supporters,the bill has spawned a strong protest movement,baptised “protest for all”. In recent months,thousands have taken to the streets either to defend or to oppose the bill. The question is being debated fiercely in homes,on social media,on talk shows,and has split France into two. A veritable Twitter war is raging on gay marriage and adoption,an issue that conservative Catholic Spain voted into law in 2005.

France,a country that in the past was a pioneer in the field of human rights,which enshrined liberty,equality and fraternity as its national motto and which has always taken great pride in its socially progressive measures,has been strangely backward in legalising gay marriage. Since 1999,same-sex couples have benefited,from the PACS,a civil union pact that conferred some,though not all,of the rights of marriage. However,the right to adopt a child together has continued to elude same-sex couples,though gay people can adopt individually. This right to marry and adopt would be a constitutional acknowledgement of equality for gay people and is of great importance for the gay community,even those who are personally against the institution of marriage.

Recognising the need for this measure,President Francois Hollande made extending the right to marry and adopt to same-sex couples a part of his election manifesto. Though Hollande’s government has reneged on many of his electoral pledges,it moved swiftly in this case.

A bill to legalise same-sex marriage and adoption was introduced by the prime minister in November 2012. In spite of stalling tactics adopted by its opponents,who tacked on some 5,000 amendments,most of them ridiculous and outright absurd,the bill now looks set to become law.

But the issue of same-sex adoption has stirred up a hornet’s nest of protests,vituperative diatribe,violence and even gay bashing. Opponents are mostly from the extreme right and right,but they do cover the whole political spectrum and include some strange bedfellows: staunch Roman Catholics,evangelical Christians,Muslims,social conservatives,agnostics,atheists. The glue that binds such diversity together is,in this case,not so much opposition to same-sex marriage as opposition to adoption by same-sex couples.

Opinion polls have shown that though a majority of French people are in favour of same-sex marriage,a clear majority also have reservations on adoption by same-sex couples. All opponents cannot be categorised as homophobic. Two underlying fears define their stand. The first is the fear,often not explicitly stated,of the heightened risk of child sexual abuse and the second,openly voiced,is the negative repercussions of homoparentality on a child’s psychosexual development.

Research has shown that these fears are unfounded. Parental sexual orientation does not negatively impact parenting aptitude,child adjustment or sexual orientation. The American Psychological Association has stated that research indicates no increased risk of child sexual abuse. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) as well as two French associations of paediatricians have come out in favour of legalising gay marriage and adoption. Extending support to “families in all their diversity”,the AAP stated that scientific findings showed that children benefit from “similar parenting whether they are raised by parents of the same or different genders”. When one thinks of the number of children languishing in orphanages awaiting adoption,it seems criminal to deprive them of potential loving,nurturing homes on the grounds of deep-seated prejudices against gay people.

France could become the 14th country in the world to legalise gay marriage. French dictionaries are not waiting for the law to pass. Most of them have already modified their definition of marriage. Marriage is no longer a union between a man and a woman but rather,the “union between two people of the opposite sex or the same sex”.

In India,where homosexual intercourse between two consenting adults was decriminalised by the Delhi High Court only as late as 2009,we seem light years away from granting full constitutional equality to LGBT people through the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Yet,there has been an encouraging shift in media and Bollywood film attitudes towards gay people. Instead of waiting for other countries to show the way and for LGBT pressure to mount,India should now read the signs of the times and become the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage and end centuries-long discrimination.

The writer is a Paris-based freelance interpreter and writer

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