Sexuality, Marriage and State

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak

Modern nation-states were established to secure citizenship rights and ensure egalitarian and democratic governance based on constitutional rules and regulations shaped by the values of secularism and science. These principles are central to governance and public administration. States and governments can manage various conflicts during the governance process for greater common good by adhering to constitutional values based on science and secularism.

The issues of sexuality, marriage, and divorce are individual choices and citizenship rights. States and governments are supposed to facilitate these choices to ensure inalienable citizenship rights. Civil and constitutional values are there to guide states and governments in matters of crisis and conflict during the process of ensuring individual citizenship rights. However, modern states and governments are pandering to religious and reactionary right-wing forces and enforcing laws that domesticate citizenship rights and uphold reactionary values in society, which undermines individual rights, dignity, and liberty.

Marriage, as a process and institution, is a social, emotional, and legal contract between two individuals based on their choices. States and governments should only enter into this individual space when a crime is committed, such as in cases of child marriage, conjugal and domestic violence, disputes, and acrimonious divorce. However, regardless of their ideological orientations, states and governments often engage with marriage to domesticate individual choices and uphold reactionary communitarian values. There is no place for communitarian values in the matters of marriages. Let marriage grow as a social and civil institution and an emotional process based on egalitarian friendship and love. The state and governments have no place in it. The governance of love and marriage is neither love nor marriage. It is a process of undemocratic domestication that demeans citizenship rights

Similarly, sexuality is both biological and social and based on individual choices. It involves mutually agreed-upon romantic or non-romantic sexual encounters between two or more individuals. Whether the nature of such relationships is temporary or permanent, monogamous or polygamous, religious or civil, social or emotional, it should be up to the involved individuals to decide for themselves. There is no place for god, communities, state, and governments within such a private sphere. There is no sin, sacred, or divine role in the matters of marriage and sexuality, and there is nothing puritanical about it. The state and government should only enter into such a private sphere if a crime is involved.

Moral arguments on sexuality and marriage based on communitarian, religious, and reactionary cultural norms lack any form of progressive, egalitarian, and democratic values. Therefore, moral, religious, and reactionary cultural arguments need to be discarded. Feudal, patriarchal, and bourgeois hypocrisies are often branded as moral, religious, and cultural arguments to justify state and government interference in the matters of sexuality and marriage. States and governments often privilege heterosexuality and normalize reactionary social, cultural, and religious values that domesticate individuals in the matters of marriage and sexuality.

The freedom to choose love and marriage is a great equalizer in the age of various forms of discrimination based on class, race, caste, gender, and sexuality. The ability to love and marry freely can help to deepen democracy and heal social and cultural fault lines. A scientific and secular approach to marriage can only contribute towards a progressive transformation of society. Modern states and governments need to facilitate such a process and not hinder social progress. Arguments on marriage and sexuality in the name of social order and peace based on communitarian, religious, cultural, and legal grounds are fundamentally reactionary.

It is individuals who form families, societies, states, governments, and laws. It is time to separate states and governments from issues of sexuality and marriage to ensure the sanctity and sovereignty of individuals’ citizenship rights. Individual rights and democratic governance are inseparable twins, and democratic governance depends on scientific, secular, autonomous, and free individuals.


Prof. Bhabani Shankar Nayak is a political economist working as Professor at University of Glasgow, UK.


Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times

Images courtesy of The Wire and Provided

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