With the Supreme Court scheduled to hear petitions seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriages on Tuesday, a study among Indians has found that legalisation of such unions will have a “positive impact on mental health of LGBTQIA+ individuals”.
The study titled The Anticipated Impact of LGBTQIA+ Marriage Equality Legislation on Indian Society and Mental Health, based on an online survey conducted by a group of six researchers, found that legalisation of same-sex marriage and marriage equality would lead to improvement in wellbeing, legal safety and access to legal rights. “While legalisation of marriage will not guarantee societal acceptance, many respondents mentioned that legalisation of marriage would create a stronger sense of community and social support and enable them to secure essential rights,” said Megha Sharda, a neuroscientist and co-author of the study.
The researchers conducted the survey to understand the attitude of Indians towards legalisation of same-sex marriage. Out of a sample size of 5,825 respondents, 95% welcomed legalisation of marriage for LGBTQIA+ individuals and 93% believed marriage equality will reduce mental health-related distress in youth. The study also found that decriminalisation of Section 377 by the Supreme Court had a positive impact on the mental health of LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Also, 93% of the respondents believed that legalisation of same-sex marriage will improve mental health outcomes, including reduced levels of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, grief, etc., in LGBTQIA+ youth and families. Further, it would bring visibility to the lived experiences of the queer couples. In the study, the authors quote a respondent who says that “to be formally and socially able to come out to the society as a legitimate couple and family unit will provide immense impetus to self-esteem, besides lowering of anxiety and depression for the gay community. They have the right as everyone else to be with whom they love, have children, cohabit, own assets together and more”.
While studying the possible impact of the legalisation of same-sex marriage, the study found that decriminalisation of Section 377 by the Supreme Court in 2018 had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the mental health of individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community. “87% of respondents agreed that decriminalising homosexuality reduced the stigma and increased support, acceptance and a sense of belonging,” said Sanjana Mishra, a psychologist and co-author.
While most respondents were in favour of legalisation of same-sex marriage, 3% were against it. “They stated that such acts were against religious and cultural ideas and were against nature and reproduction, while some said that it was a western concept,” said Ms. Sharda.