International Day of Families: Changing face of families in India

Traditional society inches towards inclusion


May 15, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

International Day of Families: Changing face of families in India

Indian families are undergoing changes owing to rising awareness and acceptance in the society (MIG Photos/ Palak Chawla)

The concept of family in India has evolved, albeit slowly, over years and has moved on from the traditional notions to more inclusive forms. However, equal recognition, rights and acceptance for these unique families is still a far cry.

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Gone are the days when a family could only be defined as nuclear or joint, comprising a heterosexual married couple and their children. Over the past decade due to rising awareness and acceptance in the society many newforms of families are emerging like, same sex couples, single parent families, childless families or even people ling alone. New dynamics are being explored especially in generation Z.

“For me a family is someone I can share a home with. Being in a family should not require marriage, nor romance but simply people wanting to share their life together. I think that’s a family,” Charvi, a Delhi based student who identifies herself as queer, tells Media India Group.

Changing face of parenthood

Indian couples and families are undergoing radical changes in raising kids as people realise that the need to connect with children is a fulfilling experience which should not be marred with social constructs.

Many Indian celebrities, acclaimed directors and actors have been promoting acceptance for unique forms of families in society through openly adopting unconventional parenthood. Sushmita Sen, a famous Indian actress and former Miss Universe, is a single unmarried mother to her two adopted daughters, while other celebrated Bollywood personalities like Karan Johar and Tusshar Kapoor have stepped into the role of fatherhood through the process of surrogacy.

“In a natural birth, the mother and the child connect through the umbilical cord but in adoption, the mother and the child are connected by this higher power, a connection that you cannot cut off. I have had the privilege of experiencing it twice. To become a mother who has given birth from the heart. I have not missed a day of feeling the joy of motherhood,” said Sen in an interview.

Acceptance of same sex couples

Repealing Article 377 and decriminalisation of same sex relationships by the Supreme Court of India in 2017 was a monumental step taken by the judiciary towards granting equal recognition to the LGBTQ+AI community. However, in a country bound by traditions and customs, where marriages are still seen as the only accepted and respectable form of family, lack of legal provisions for same sex couples to marry is still a major hindrance.

“It feels heart wrenching. Marriage laws only recognise heterosexual unions, depriving same-sex couples of many benefits as well as social and legal recognition that married persons enjoy. I agree one can’t achieve radical changes in society while seeking acceptance into its traditional family norms rooted in patriarchy. There are, however, compelling and practical reasons to seek social and legal recognition of same-sex relationships,” a Delhi-based LGBTQ+AI activist who did not wish to be named tells Media India Group.

“Certain legal benefits such as succession, maintenance and pension rights that are available to married couples are not available to same-sex couples. Economic benefits are given only to those related by blood or marriage. Single persons and unmarried couples have found it increasingly difficult to adopt. Many of them merely desire acceptance without discrimination and the option to have a legally recognised partnership,” she added.

Indian society seems to be moving forward in this direction at different speeds. While on section of the society is stuck with traditions, the other is rebelling for change. This distinction cannot be termed as generational as many people of the younger generations also have such traditional and conservative ideas. However, there has been a tangible change due to changing mind-set and better awareness.

“Every slight progress is still progress, from a time where people did not see each other’s faces before marriage we have moved towards a more consensual, liberated and autonomous choice over whom we would like to call family,” says the activist, hopefully.



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