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A historical fact

By Anita Joshua


Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West, Ruth Vanita, Penguin, Rs. 295.

AS a word, homosexuality may have entered daily vocabulary in India, but it is still used in hush-hush terms. In fact, the traditional mind sees homosexuality as a product of "Kalyug" (dark ages). But, Ruth Vanita — a professor of Liberal Studies at the University of Montana — argues otherwise in Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West.

Her contention is that same-sex relationships have their roots in the past — not just elsewhere but also in India — and she anchors her argument on the 14th Century devotional texts in Sanskrit and Bengali which talk of the birth of a heroic child, Bhagiratha, to two women with divine blessings.

Triggered by same-sex joint suicides in India by couples unable to deal with the demands of a traditional society, Ruth Vanita tries to prove that homosexuality is not peripheral but central to modern culture. Since any marriage performed according to ceremonies conducted in one partner's community is recognised by Indian law, her argument is that by the same logic same-sex weddings that have family approval and religious blessing are valid.

How much the book will succeed in opening up the debate on the subject in India remains to be seen, but Ruth Vanita is rather candid in writing about known same-sex relationships; reaching out even into the world of politicians whose personal lives are seldom talked about in mainstream Indian media, unlike in the West.

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