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Monday, December 4, 2023

Controversy Erupts Over LGBTQ Wedding in India

A recent wedding of an LGBTQ couple in the northern state of Punjab has made headlines and stirred controversy, as India awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on legalizing same-sex marriage.

Dimple, 27, who identifies as ‘he,’ and Manisha, 21, were married on September 18 in Bathinda City with the approval of their families, which is quite uncommon in a traditional nation like India. What made their wedding even more unique was that the bride and groom went through all the customary formalities to get married at a gurdwara, a Sikh temple. Some religious authorities have denounced the wedding, notably Giani Raghbir Singh, the highest cleric in Sikhism, who stated that same-sex marriage was ‘unnatural and antithetical to Sikh ideals.’

He declared that the union of two women in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib, the revered Sikh scripture, was a grave moral and religious violation’ and gave the Bathinda gurdwara committee the go-ahead to suspend priest Hardev Singh, who performed the union, and three other individuals from their duties until further notice. Since then, Hardev Singh’s seat has remained vacant. In his defense, he said that he had no idea that both the bride and the groom were females because one of the women was wearing a turban. Dimple has disputed this assertion, stating that the gurdwara had received copies of their identity documents, and there was no cause for concern.

Both Dimple and Manisha come from distant regions where LGBTQ+ issues are seldom brought up in public; Dimple is from the Mansa district, and Manisha is from Bathinda. Dimple, an upper-caste Jatt Sikh, and Manisha, a Dalit Hindu, met while working at the same textile factory in Zirakpur, a town close to Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. When I first met them a few days after their wedding, they seemed like any other happily married couple, radiating joy. The couple informed me that almost 70 relatives were present for their Anand Karaj (or Sikh wedding ritual). In their wedding photos and videos, Manisha is shown wearing a maroon and gold tunic, salwar bottoms, and a silk scarf, while Dimple is depicted as a traditional Sikh groom with the customary garland of flowers affixed to his maroon turban.

Insisting that they have never concealed their identity, the pair showed the marriage license that the Bathinda Gurdwara Committee had granted them. In 2018, India removed the legal prohibition against homosexual activity, yet same-sex marriages continue to remain without formal acknowledgment.

The Supreme Court has recently reviewed numerous cases related to marriage equality, and we can expect a verdict soon. Currently, same-sex marriage is illegal in India, preventing Dimple and Manisha from enjoying the same rights as heterosexual married couples, but experts argue it is not a crime. However, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, the supreme religious body of Sikhism, claims it is looking into any infractions of religious law.

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