Family, Redefined

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Daddy wears the pants in the family. Daddy keeps a good home. Mummy and daddy, as gender-defined entities with their specific, if sometimes shared, responsibilities have slowly become outdated versions of the neat and tidy family unit. Yonatan and Omer Gher, the gay couple from Israel who recently became parents by adopting Evyatar, conceived by a surrogate mother at a fertility clinic in Mumbai, have perhaps raised the hopes of homosexual couples here, who long to start a family as many childless, ‘straight’ couples do.


But while the heterosexual and legally wed are sent to child-bestowing pilgrimage sites, the aberrant are written off as criminals with a carnal appetite that goes against nature. A pair of criminal perverts couldn’t possibly raise a child. Heterosexual couples, with their problematic chemistry that breeds a variety of exploitations and a variety of laws for retribution, are, despite the overwhelming empirical evidence to prove the contrary, considered stable enough to bring up a child.

There were as many as 3,534 cases registered under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (DV) Act in Delhi between October 2006 and August 2008, the highest in the country. Kerala was a close second with 3,287 cases registered and Maharashtra reported 2,751 cases. Andhra Pradesh, with 1,625 cases registered between July 2007 and October 2008, has also allocated Rs 100 million for the effective implementation of the law, which was introduced two years ago to include an extensive list of violations, from the physical to the psychological, sexual, verbal and economic. The Act thoughtfully embraces women not legally married but living with a man.

The DV Act, together with the country’s anti-dowry law IPC 498A has sired groups like the Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) and Mothers and Sisters Organisation (MASI) that holler against the misuse of these laws. Websites like the Save Family Foundation (SFF) actually have nuggets of advice for husbands bullied into paying alimony

by extortionist ex-wives: “Do not give her alimony. Gift her something better.” The slogan is accompanied by the photograph of a sewing machine. Statistics on the National Crime Records Bureau website grimly state that the number of married men who committed suicide between 2005 and 2006 was a tragic 1,07,935 as against the less alarming number of 58,057 married women.

Lawyers mention some most trivial reasons for couples seeking divorce, like too much hair on a partner’s body. A recently publicised case cited smelly boils around the wife’s mouth and the subsequent trauma of the husband as ground for divorce. An unstable family environment notwithstanding, the child is expected to be a shiny-happy person, not one who has inherited his parents’ foul language, bouts of depression, object-throwing tendencies. Children reared by couples intolerant of each other and subjected to bitter custody battles once the marriage snaps, can hardly hope to escape emotionally unscathed. For pre-school children, the consequences are usually a re-run of infant habits like thumb sucking and bedwetting and constant crankiness and aggression towards siblings and peers. As grown ups, they are a troubled lot, constantly wary of people and life-long commitments.

Good parenting then should have little to do with the sexual orientation of the parents. Loving homosexual couples are more equipped to raise children, liberated of prejudice as they are, than those spoon-fed on convention. Not only should homosexuality be decriminalised, but also laws should be relaxed to facilitate same-sex parenthood, whether through surrogacy or adoption.

The radical Adoption and Children Act that came into force in the UK in 2005 allows unmarried and same-sex couples to legally adopt a child. In India, the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) permits single unmarried, divorced

or widowed men and women to adopt. Gujarat’s gay prince Manavendrasinh Gohil, who belongs to the royal family of Rajpipla, was perhaps a rare instance of a homosexual who announced his intentions to adopt a child

in January this year. Recognition of gay rights may also, indirectly, open up the possibility of stable adoptive homes for ‘aberrant’ children the dark, disabled or slightly disfigured ones, who are often rejected by childless heterosexuals.

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