The Week of Love that the month of February is so well known for has already started all around the world. Despite all the criticism and mockery it gets from the probably-single internet trolls, it truly is a great time for couples. It starts with ‘Rose Day’ on 7th and gradually includes teddies, hugs and promises and more in the list, counting down to the Valentine’s Day on 14th.
This year, it is even more special an occasion in India, as this is the first Valentine’s Day the citizens will be celebrating after Supreme Court declared the law criminalising homosexuality annulled last September. Thus, this is also the year when same-sex couples can finally celebrate their love and affection for each other publicly without becoming a “criminal” in the process.
Isn’t that amazing?
Is Indian Valentine’s Day too hetero-normative?
But while that is true, it is also true that the typical V-Day celebration that India sees is largely hetero-normative. As the day approaches, one can see the whole country celebrating it in some way or another, but most of it is created and projected keeping in mind an audience of opposite-sex couples.
The advertisements we see on television always cast one male and one female lead. Offers in the hospitality sector on couple dinners, drinks or spa sessions are mostly applicable for them as well. If you walk into a gift shop that sells cards and showpieces, most of the romantic items you will find, have an implicit but similar undertone.
One can argue that gifts on Valentine’s Day can always be more personal – things that does not care about the nature of the relationship. But that is not the point. When the whole country is celebrating the Day of Love commercially, socially and culturally as much as any of the other festivals like Holi, Diwali and Christmas, it should be more inclusive in its representation.
The history of Valentine
Unfortunately, for most people, the importance of the day has come down to a mere exchange of gifts and expensive dine-outs. But it started out as something far more significant – one that further re-establishes the idea of ‘love is love’ irrespective of gender and sexuality.
There are many legends pertaining to the story of Valentine’s Day. The most popular one is of Saint Valentine of Rome, who was imprisoned for ministering the marriages of soldiers and persecuted Christians under the Roman Empire, who were forbidden to marry. The story goes on to say how Saint Valentine signed a letter with “Your Valentine” as a farewell to the daughter of the judge before his execution, the same daughter whose eyesight he restored by his powers.
So Valentine’s Day has roots in the idea that love triumphs over anything and everything else. It first became associated with romantic love in 14th century within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer and the concept of presenting flowers, greetings cards and other gifts to one’s paramour flourished during the ‘courtly love’ era of 18th century England.
What can be done to make Valentine’s Day in India more inclusive?
Ever since Section 377 and ‘Pride’ started trending because of the historic judgement, many companies have been jumping the bandwagon and trying to promote homosexuality and same-sex love. But inclusivity is not only about putting the rainbow everywhere. It does not do anything for the LGBT community, and only ends up looking like a timely-done marketing strategy.
Here’s the fun thing – it takes very little to no effort to make something like Valentine’s Day to be more inclusive towards same-sex couples. All that needs to be done is to literally ‘include’ them in the way Valentine’s Day is represented and extend the same products, services and offers to non-heterosexual couples as well.
Showing same-sex couples in TV commercials and print ads, lovey-dovey showpieces that has other combinations than a man and a woman, couple offers that do not exclude the possibility of two men or two women enjoying them – these are some of the important but easily achievable steps that can be taken.
After all, of all the things in the world, love is perhaps the only one that only increases when it is shared.