Same-Sex Marriages in Modern India
'An effortless combination of empathy, moral conviction and deep cultural sensitivity'-Ashis Nandy
Long before the debate on marriage equality began, young, non-English speaking, low-income female couples all over India got married by religious rites or committed joint suicide, which they considered being 'married in death'. These women had no contact with any movement and had never heard words like 'lesbian' or 'gay'. While many families, in collusion with police, violently separated the couples, several families also supported their daughters.
Love's Rite, first published in 2005, is the first and still the only book-length study of these unions, starting with one reported in 1980. The book argues that the couples asserted-and today still assert-their right to be together, using an age-old language of love understood by Indians. Vanita explores Indian religious, legal and literary traditions that provide spaces for same-sex and other socially disapproved unions.
While many recent high-profile Indian weddings have been reported as the 'first' of their kind, Love's Rite celebrates the unsung pioneers and martyrs of the struggle for marriage equality.
Ruth Vanita taught at Delhi University for twenty years and is now professor at the University of Montana. She was founding co-editor of Manushi 1978-90. She is the author of several books, including Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination (1996); Gandhi's Tiger and Sita's Smile: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Culture (2005), Gender, Sex and the City: Urdu Rekhti Poetry in India 1780-1870 (2012); Dancing with the Nation: Courtesans in Bombay Cinema (2017). (2017). She co-edited the pioneering Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History (2000; updated edition 2020). Her first novel, Memory of Light,appeared in 2020.
She is the author of over sixty articles on British and Indian literature, and has translated many works of fiction and poetry from Hindi and Urdu to English, most notably Chocolate: Stories on Male-Male Desire by Pandey Bechan Sharma 'Ugra' (2008). She divides her time between Missoula and Gurgaon.