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Marriage Equality Could Bring Women Autonomy and Safety

New Report Addresses Family Violence Against Queer, Trans Women

"Women & Trans-persons’ March for Peace & Diversity" in Kolkata, India, April 4, 2019. © 2019 Avishek Das/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/AP Images

A coalition of queer feminist organizations and individuals in India have issued a groundbreaking report that ties state and religious opposition to marriage equality to the subjugation of women, queer, and trans people via parental control.

The report lands as India’s Supreme Court is hearing the final arguments in a case over the legalization of same-sex marriage.

While India's marriage equality debate has been framed almost exclusively as a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issue in the national and international media, the report’s authors see it as a family issue, because the court is ruling on whether adults have a say in forming chosen families through marriage.

The report, “Our Own Hurt Us the Most: Centering Familial Violence in the Lives of Queer and Trans Persons in the Marriage Equality Debates,” focuses on violence and discrimination against queer women and trans people. It describes physical and sexual violence, denial of land and property rights under “heterosexual family-oriented” inheritance policies, and their deeply held desires to build and protect “chosen families” that are safer than those they were born into. The findings are based on a closed-door hearing on violence against queer and trans people, at which the majority of those who spoke were queer women and trans men.

The report asserts that government opposition to same-sex marriage is “not against queer and trans [people] alone,” but is instead part of a broader attempt to stop women and trans men from accessing their right to free and full consent to marriage, including inter-religious and inter-caste marriages, which is foundational to their obtaining greater power, land, and autonomy.

In February, a Human Rights Watch report on violence and discrimination against lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ+) women globally found that forced and coercive marriage practices were the most pressing human rights violations affecting queer women. The investigation included interviews with 66 LBQ+ activists across 26 countries, and it found that the practice of forcing queer women into heterosexual marriages is deeply tied to laws and policies that violate their rights to land, inheritance, and property.

In consultation with queer and feminist human rights defenders, governments should reform or abolish patriarchal systems of control, including all laws that violate queer women and trans men’s right to free and full consent to marriage, as well as discriminatory property and inheritance laws.

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