"I couldn't see marriage as an option for me."
Saturday 29th March 2014 is a date that has changed the UK, legalising the acceptance and tolerance of marriages between two people from the same sex.
Prime minister David Cameron told the Pink Website saying:”This weekend is an important moment for our country.” He added saying: “It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth.”
His opposite, leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband also supported the new law saying: “This is an incredibly happy time for so many gay couples and lesbian couples who will be getting married, but it’s an incredibly proud time for our country as well, recognising equal marriage in law.”
The law has changed the authority of religion in the UK. The Archbishop of Canterbury has indicated that the Church of England has to now accept that is law and can no longer resist to gay marriage amongst churchgoers. Where once, in the historical past no such law would have even made it parliament.
This is no doubt a victorious day for gay couples up and down the country giving them freedom to marry instead of just staying in civil relationships without marriage. However, how does this new law pan out with British Asians?
DESIblitz highlighted the impact on British Asians in the article The Impact of Gay Marriage on British Asians when the law was first mooted.
As gay marriage has now been legalised, will the new law give comfort to gay British Asians in the same way? Or will British Asian gay weddings stay a ‘hush-hush’ affair?
It is stupidity for British Asian communities to assume ‘no such thing takes place in our community’ the simple fact is it does and more than likely has been for many decades, but never ousted as it is today.
Whether we like it or not, the issue of someone being gay is still not as easily accepted amongst British Asians compared to non-Asian society. There are still lots of gay Asians living in a dual life – one to fit into the family and friends, the other to suit their sexual orientation.
There are support groups and networks such the London Naz Project and numerous Asian LGBT websites and blogs which can provide information on the difficulties faced by British Asian gays.
There are so many stories about how hard it is for gay British Asians to live in Asian society without some kind of backlash; where they are disowned, beaten up or even taken to a doctor to ‘fix’ their condition. A prominent factor is the non-acceptance of such behaviour amongst the core South Asian religions.
So, how easy will it be for British Asian gays to get married under this new law?
It’s not going to be easy at all, frankly. The concept of coming out is hard enough for British Asians, so gay marriage is something that is likely to introduce major contention within the majority of Asian families and communities.
A British Asian gay man, Mahmood, says when he first came out, his parents said: “What about the community? What are we going to tell the community?” He hadds: “And, still today, I see that attitude as being our main concern. The prevalent issue we face is educating our parents, our grandparents, and our communities.”
A British Asian gay female, Anita, says:
“I’m out to all of my friends and my brothers, but I’m not out to my mum and dad or to my extended family. In recent years, I’ve noticed that my parents have become increasingly conservative, and it would be difficult to tell them.”
How would typical Asian parents react to their child saying they are going to marry their gay partner?
The chances are in most cases the child will be emotionally blackmailed, beaten-up, disowned or forced to leave the family home.
A British Asian Sikh gay man, Surjit, says: “I feel that, as a gay man, I should not be denied the right to an Anand Karaj, that I should have the choice.”
Anita does not feel the same, saying: “I found it particularly problematic talking to my friends about my sexuality as they were so heavily invested in the idea of marriage, and I couldn’t see marriage as an option for me.”
Gay marriage inside a church is still being debated. There are now two legal definitions of gay marriage, one that is recognised by the Church of England and many other religious groups, and the other acknowledged by the state.
Despite the gay marriage law, such marriages in Asian religious establishments are likely to have extreme and vigorous objection. Since, the real institute of marriage is only accepted between men and women within the core South Asian religions.
A way around marriage for some gay Asians is the practice of Marriages of Convenience (MOC) especially for gay people. This is where the two people marrying are of opposite sex e.g. homosexual and lesbian, but then continue with their own gay lives after. An activity very common amongst gay communities in South Asia, especially, India, which has now spread to the UK.
India has its own problems with gay rights where anti-gay rights have been re-instated and opposition to gay relationships is huge but equally gay people are highly visible in the country.
The complexity of British Asian society with its mix of religions and cultures is built on the foundations brought over to the UK by migrants with ethics and values of South Asia and to expect migrant generations to accept gay marriages just because of it being law is next to an impossible task.
However, newer generations of British Asians do have the responsibility to decide what is acceptable or not when it comes to gay marriage. Will it ever be accepted? Time will tell.