Maharashtra: Same-Sex, Single Parents and Live-in Relationships Now Included in Class XI Textbooks

As ABVP activists continue to protest over the proposal to include a paper titled ‘Interrogating Queerness’ in the revised syllabus of Delhi University’s English department, the Maharashtra government has updated the class XI sociology textbooks with a section on same-sex parents.

The revised textbook published by Balbharti – Maharashtra’s publishing bureau – now also includes a list of other families such as single-parent families, live-in relationships, same-sex parents and families with step parents.

The decriminalisation of Section 377, according to Hindustan Timesis an essential part of the module on family, kinship and marriage. “In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court of India on September 6, 2018 decriminalised Section 377 of the IPC and allowed gay sex among consenting adults in private…,” says a line from one chapter.

In the module on ‘Twenty first century families’, the book talks about the concept of cohabitation by throwing light on live-in relationships in India. The text in the module reads: “Younger generations, [especially] in many parts of Europe and in urban areas of India are preferring cohabitation as family relation. This is especially true about same-sex couples… live-in relations or cohabitation might not lead to marriage.”

Although the Supreme Court, in 2013, said that live-in relationships were “neither a crime nor a sin,” many residential societies and hotels in India continue to sideline and discriminate against unmarried couples. In August 2018, a couple – both post-grads from a prestigious university – were refused a room in an Andheri hotel, the Times of India reported. Similarly, in 2015, Mumbai police, according to Mid-day, rounded-up 40 unmarried couples in a hotel in Aksa, charging them with “public indecency.”

Debunking such misconceptions, the textbook now describes live-in relationships and same sex relationships as part of our social set-up. In one of its modules, it also highlights the need for gender equity by posing the question: “Where are the women?” while discussing equal-pay for women. It also talks about “agencies of socialisation” and “cultural hybridisation”.

The modifications made in the textbook at par with a rapidly modernising Indian society comes at a time when NCERT is removing chapters in class IX textbooks on caste struggles and colonialism in an attempt, as scholars say, to “saffronise” knowledge.

Prachi Sathe – chief coordinator at Balbharti – told Hindustan Times that the modifications made in class XI textbooks are made so that students relate them with existing social realities. “We had some key objectives while preparing the new textbooks – making topics relevant and explaining them in the Indian context being the important ones, which is reflected in all the new textbooks this year, ” she said.

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