In a country where LGBTQ+ rights are rarely discussed in public, an LGBTQ couple’s recent wedding in a Sikh temple has stirred both headlines and controversy, casting a spotlight on India’s ongoing struggle for equality.
Historic LGBT Union in India
Dimple, 27, who prefers the pronoun ‘he,’ and Manisha, 21, tied the knot in Bathinda city, Punjab, on September 18, in a ceremony that garnered attention for its uniqueness and the support of their families – a rare occurrence in conservative India.
A Traditional Sikh Temple Wedding
What made this wedding even more remarkable was the setting: a gurdwara, a Sikh temple, where Dimple and Manisha followed all the traditional rituals.
Religious Leaders’ Opposition
However, this union has not been without its challenges. Religious leaders, notably including Sikhism’s highest priest, Giani Raghbir Singh, condemned the marriage.
Singh proclaimed same-sex marriage as “unnatural and contrary to Sikh ethics.” The presence of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy Sikh scripture, during the wedding was seen as a “severe moral and religious violation.”
The Priest Was Suspended
Singh’s criticism prompted the suspension of priest Hardev Singh, who officiated the ceremony, along with three others from their duties. Hardev Singh later claimed confusion, saying he couldn’t determine both their genders because one of them was wearing a turban.
Dimple disputed this claim, highlighting that they had provided identity proof to the gurdwara, eliminating any grounds for confusion.
Dimple and Manisha’s Journey to Marriage
Dimple, an upper-caste Jatt Sikh from Mansa district, and Manisha, a Dalit Hindu from Bathinda, met while working at a garment factory in Zirakpur.
Despite facing opposition and conservative norms, nearly 70 relatives attended Dimple and Manisha’s wedding.
In photographs and videos, Dimple resembled a traditional Sikh groom, adorned in a maroon turban with a garland of flowers, while Manisha donned a maroon and gold tunic, salwar bottoms, and red bangles, embracing her role as the bride.
Dimple’s Coming Out Experience
Dimple’s parents expressed support and understanding when he revealed his sexual orientation.
While he considered gender reassignment surgery at one point, his parents’ concerns about the procedure’s outcomes led him to reconsider.
Dimple’s Exploration of LGBTQ+ Issues
Dimple’s awareness of LGBTQ+ issues grew after he moved to Zirakpur in 2017 and connected with like-minded friends and online resources.
From Friends to Partners
Manisha, a co-worker and friend, eventually became Dimple’s partner after a previous relationship ended.
Dimple proposed to her over the phone just a few short days after they started dating.
Persuading Manisha’s Family to Embrace the Union
Convincing her parents was a challenge, but after some persuasion, they embraced the idea.
Their parents met, and they set the wedding date. Dimple, a practicing Sikh, desired a wedding following Sikh traditions, leading them to approach the gurdwara priest.
Marriage Certificate from the Bathinda Gurdwara Committee
Both Dimple and Manisha insist that they never concealed their identities, and they proudly display the marriage certificate issued by the Bathinda gurdwara committee.
The Status of Same-Sex Marriage in India
Despite India decriminalizing gay sex in 2018, same-sex marriages still lack official recognition.
Supreme Court Hearings on Marriage Equality
The Supreme Court is currently hearing petitions seeking marriage equality, with a judgment expected to come soon.
As of now, same-sex marriage remains legally uncharted territory in India, meaning that Dimple and Manisha cannot access the rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.
However, it is not considered a felony, according to experts.
Sikh Committee Investigates Potential Violations in the Wedding
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, the religious body of Sikhism, is investigating whether there have been any violations of religious codes surrounding this unique and controversial wedding.
The outcome of this debate will undoubtedly reverberate far beyond the confines of this particular marriage, potentially shaping the future of LGBTQ+ rights in the nation.
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Natural Marble Backdrops. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.