Not Recognising Same-Sex Marriage Leads to Gay Brain Drain: Petitioners Explain

Recognising same-sex marriage: Did you know there is a phrase in academic literature called 'gay brain drain?'

4 min read

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia

Senior Editor: Shelly Walia

Did you know there is a phrase in academic literature called 'gay brain drain?' It is the kind of migration which is not economic in nature, but the main moving force for you to migrate is your sexual orientation.

While multiple petitions have been filed before the Delhi High Court seeking the recognition of same-sex marriage, one such plea focuses exclusively on the 'gay brain drain aspect.'

The four petitioners, three of whom have already migrated to other countries, are fighting for the Right to Marry – simply because they want to live a life with 'dignity'.

"I did not move here to make my life monetarily better. I am not an economic migrant. I had an amazing job and an amazing support system in India. But I've moved here, just so that I could live a life of dignity," Saattvic, who moved to Canada's Vancouver in 2019, told The Quint. He is an economist, actor, and a musician.

A world bank study estimates that India loses 1.3 percent of GDP because of higher rates of suicide and depression among queer community – a problem that can be fixed by granting equal rights to the members of the LGBTQIA+.

Petitioner Lakshmi Manoharan, now a machine learning engineer living in the American city of Seattle, explains how she too is an example of brain drain due to lack of rights.

"When I grew up, I always wanted to work with the Indian Administrative Services. This was my dream. This was what I was interested in. But when I was 20, I realised I was gay. So, I was forced to reconsider my career choices. How could I possibly be working with the Indian government and be in direct conflict with the Indian Constitution? Section 377 was still very much in effect. This was in 2015, pre-Navtej Johar. I love what I do. But this was not my Plan A. I was forced to change my career choice because I am gay."
Lakshmi Manoharan

Petitoner Udit Sood, who is a lawyer by profession, said that he never planned on staying in California for a long time. It was not opportunities, but the right to basic rights, that made him stay back.

"In India, practicing law in New is certainly more liberal than other parts of the country. But I wasn't out at work. My bosses certainly didn't know. I lied about my sexuality. My senior advocates that I worked with didn't know. The judges certainly didn't. I viewed my sexuality as a serious impediment to my career prospect."
Udit Sood

What Does Their Petition Say

The petitioners state that the Supreme Court was pretty explicit when it said, "The LGBTQ community possesses the same human, fundamental and constitutional rights as other citizens."

So, the idea that the Constitution gives the right to marry to heterosexuals and says 'homosexuals, tough luck', is just inconsistent with precedent, they stress.

More importantly, they also point out how denying people the same rights that are available to the general population can harm the country as a whole.

"While LGBTQ people undoubtedly bear the highest burden when it comes to exclusionary policy of not allowing equal rights, it is important to recognise that it has repercussions for everyone, for every citizen of India. For the country, the economy as a whole," Saattvic added.


More than anything, they just want to be with their partners, and enjoy all the rights that heterosexual couples do.

Delhi-based petitioner Gagan Paul, who works as a Sales Development Head, is considering moving abroad – so that he could marry and have a family some day.

"We have travelled together, we have been there for each other in our ups and downs. We have given each other obnoxious nicknames, which our friends completely hate, but can't get enough of. We fight at times like every other millennial married couple and I just hope that I don't have to leave my country to be able to be with the person I love. I don't have to want to leave my support system, my friends and family for something that is my basic fundamental right."
Gagan Paul

They Hope to Return & Live As Equal Citizens

The petitioners stress that if they wanted to move somewhere else, it should 100 percent be their decision – without policies and social circumstances surrounding their sexuality that drove them out. Some day, they hope to return to India to live with dignity.

I'm super afraid. I can't tell you how much I miss being in India, how much I miss being at home. After I moved here, my grandmother, my only remaining grandparent suddenly passed away. And for the last 15 years, the only thing she has said, the only last wish that she has ever, ever expressed was that Saattvic should light her funeral pyre, and I wasn't there.

They want to be able to lead a life, like any other couple, in the presence of their family and friends.

"Granted that today, I am in the US, and I can pursue a life that I want to. I can marry the person of my choice, I can lead a life like any other couple in the US. But my family, my friends, my cousins, my parents, my aging grandparents are all back in India. And I hope that one day, I will be able to do it at home."
Lakshmi Manoharan

(This story was first published on 14 July 2021. It has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark four years of reading down of Section 377 by India's Supreme Court.)

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