Payal and Kanchan fell in love as they trained to become policewomen. But their love has faced resistance and they have faced threats, forcing them to go to court to seek protection from their own families, reports BBC Gujarati’s Bhargav Parikh.
When Payal met Kanchan, back in 2017, she had no idea she would fall in love with her fellow trainee. That year, India’s Supreme Court had ruled that gay sex was no longer a criminal offence, overturning a previous judgement that upheld a colonial-era law. But age-old customs and regressive attitudes survived, making it difficult for same-sex relationships to be accepted by larger society.
The women, both now 24, have been living together as a couple since 2018 in the western Indian state of Gujarat, and they know first hand what the discrimination feels like. Their love story was thrust into the limelight last month when they approached the high court.
“Our families are against our relationship. They are threatening us,” Payal said, adding that the two filed an application before the court, asking for police protection. The court ruled that the couple should be protected by armed guards.
The next two years were strange for me. I had a constant barrage of nasty messages being posted on my Twitter account. Until then, I was only used to getting fan mail. I had the word ‘lesbian’ sprayed on my car window, a stone was hurled at me, a man spat at me at the Delhi airport in front of everyone… I was no longer the darling chef of the country but the dirty lesbian who had the cheek to file this petition.
Yes, there were times when I regretted my decision, when I wondered if I had acted foolishly. The strange part was that after a few agonising hours of self-doubt, I always arrived at the same answer: I had done the right thing by filing the petition, and if I didn’t do anything I had no right to complain, like Ella had said to me.
6 September 2018: It was 6 am in London – where I was on work – when the judgment was read out in the Supreme Court of India. I was stunned, shocked and so happy that my jaw started hurting.
When I had decided to file this petition, I truly did not believe that I would see a change happening in my lifetime. And on this day, two years after filing the petition, history was finally being rewritten. I am not an activist and never wanted to be one; yet for me this was my life’s biggest accomplishment and nothing else in my life till then had ever given me this sense of pride.
On June 12, a 22-year-old lesbian student from Kochi sat in a doctor’s office as her life choices were being dissected. She was taken to a hospital by her parents without her consent. A doctor from the reputed hospital offered to ‘change’ her sexual orientation by admitting her, offering medication and counselling. In other words, we are speaking about another instance of conversion therapy. The practice caught our attention again in March when Anjana Harish, a 21-year-old student committed suicide in Goa after being mentally and physically tortured at a ‘de-addiction centre’ in Palakkad where she was taken against her will by her family.
Dhanya Ravindran, a board member of Queerala, an LGBTQIA+ community in Kerala, who is acquainted with the woman says, “My friend was taken by her family to get ‘treatment’. Even after Anjana’s case, where a child’s life was lost due to something like this, the doctor asked to admit her there. They promised to help the parents by offering counselling and asked her to get admitted there. They also wanted to check if she had any physical issues. She did not agree. When we inquired further, we also found that the doctor who claimed to be a psychiatrist was actually a psychologist.”
In 2018, when the Supreme Court decriminalised Section 377, the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) disavowed conversion therapy and released a statement completely discrediting the practice. According to Om Prakash Singh, Editor of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry and Professor of Psychiatry at the West Bengal Medical Education Service, “We have given a statement strictly criticising this. And since homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder, there is no question of conversion or any kind of treatment for that. Secondly, even if an organisation is offering such a thing, it is not going to work. They are basically deceiving people. Medication could not possibly alter your sexual orientation.”
After Anjana’s suicide became public and the video was available online, Queerala sent it to the Indian Psychiatric Society’s Kerala Chapter and organised a consultation with them in February. After being informed, they released a statement about their position against conversion therapy. At the same time, they also sent a complaint to the Kerala State Mental Health Authority from whom they are yet to receive a response. As the next step, the organisation plans to submit a writ petition to the Kerala High Court. During the incident that occured on June 12, the girl was able to record the 30-minute long conversation that she had with her parents and the doctor. Here are excerpts from the conversation that Queerala has shared with us:
Two women, wanting to get married, sought police protection against their families in Ajmer on Tuesday because their families are opposed to their alliance. Both the women want to live together and have vowed to marry in future.
The two 20-something graduates have been friends since the past four years, the police said. At first, their families were happy to see their friendship and were glad that they were focussing on their studies instead of men. But when the parents learnt that the two are lesbian, both the families protested and allegedly threatened the girls with dire consequences.
Two women in their early twenties are going viral online for sharing their harrowing experience which they faced at a club in Chennai. The two women alleged that they were treated badly by the club because they are a same sex couple.
Rasika Gopalakrishnan and Shivangi Singh, took to their respective Facebook pages to tell their experience at a bar called The Slate Hotels.
In a long FB post, Rasika recounted her experience saying that the club apparently accused them of doing something else and insisted them to leave the premises even though they did not do anything.
“I am devastated by the assumptions that are made about people who deviate even slightly from the norm. They decided to make a ‘threat’ out of us for absolutely no good reason, and worse, tried to make us feel guilty for something we didn’t do.”
She also accused the hotel of threatening them by saying that they had a video of them making out and they would make the video public.
Dutee Chand, India’s first openly gay athlete, is facing a barrage of criticism from her family after announcing she was in a same-sex relationship.
Her mother and father, Akhuji and Chakradhar Chand, have not accepted their daughter’s wish to “settle down” with her partner.
Mr Chand has called their relationship “immoral and unethical”, telling the Times of India: “She has destroyed the reputation of our village.”
In interviews with Indian media, however, Ms Chand does not seem fazed.
“Freedom of choice and freedom to love are my inalienable rights and I shall exercise it,” she told the Times of India.
A 19-year-old girl was beaten up and tied to a tree by residents of her village for being in a lesbian relationship, in Jagatsinghpur district on Friday. Sarmila Malla has been seeing a girl of the same village for the past six months.
“We beat up and tied Sarmila to a tree in our village as she is a lesbian. She is immoral and has besmirched the name of our village,” said Ganesh Parida, a resident of Chandol.
On Saturday, the traumatised girl recounted the events of the previous day. “I was dragged out of my house by my neighbours. They beat me up and tied me to a tree. They abused and kicked me when my parents tried to rescue me,” Sarmila said.
For the past six years, Abhilasha and Deepshika had endured forced separation, marriages to men they did not desire, humiliation and constant taunts from their families. Their “marriage by media” was the result of love, fear that their families might kill them, and confusion as they — and their lawyer — mistakenly thought that same-sex marriage was legal in India. It isn’t. In September 2018, the Indian Supreme Court judgement overturned a colonial-era law banning gay sex. The court stopped short of legalising gay marriage but, as Abhilasha and Deepshika’s story reveals, people in love are forcing a national reckoning in pockets of India long considered too parochial, socially conservative, or outright dangerous to consider the possibility that two women may want to spend the rest of their lives together.
In a first, since the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality on September 6, 2018, a lesbian couple got married legally on Saturday at Kendrapara in Odisha. But the father of one of the brides said it was all a big conspiracy and a lot of black magic. He lodged a complaint with the Pattamundai Police Station on Monday alleging that his daughter is innocent and is under a spell of black magic.
Police have said that the couple will be interrogated in connection with the matter. “The girl will be interrogated to ascertain whether she has been forced to maintain the relationship with the other girl or it was her own choice,” Pramod Mallick, IIC of Pattamundai Police Station, said.
A young lesbian couple reportedly got married in Manglor area of Haridwar. The couple has registered the marriage in court and has demanded security from the police.
The court has ordered the police to ensure the protection of both the women. After the historic judgement by the Supreme Court, people are coming forward with their sexual preference without hesitation.
Both the women need security as the families are not happy with their decision and have threatened to kill them. Both the women are adult and taking all responsibility for their decision.
A lesbian from India who was allegedly held against her will by her husband and parents has won the right to live with her girlfriend.
The High Court of Delhi‘s Justices Siddharth Mridul and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal said the woman, who has not been named, had an “inalienable human and fundamental right” to live with her partner, according to The Indian Express.
A day after Bangalore Mirror reported the shocking police complaint filed against two women for informally marrying each other, it has emerged that one of the women has been fired from her company.
“The company (gozefo.com) people called me in the morning and asked me if I want to continue in the job or not. They asked me to talk to my parents and get back. I told them I’ll talk to my lawyers and get back. When I called them back at 5.30 pm, they said HR had decided that you leave the company since they know that it’s me who is making rounds in the media from morning. This is totally unfair,” said the younger woman.
“No one can just claim that it’s her and throw her out of the company. They told her it’s very evident from what the TV channels have showed in the visuals, and did this. We did not get married at all. In fact, I’m related to her and we live in the same house. This is really not acceptable,” the other woman said.
“Lesbian sexual identity and choice is being eroded, erased and elided. This is being done by the literal obliteration of lesbians by state-sponsored violence, by the “corrective rape of lesbians” (imagine the 12 year old Pearl Mali being given the worst sort of reparative therapy by her very own mother), by the harassment and violence, by the firings (lesbians face more job discrimination than any other group within the LGBT alliance), by the enforced and compulsory heterosexuality of every society on earth. Aderonke Apata has been forced, by men, to provide not just spoken testimony and a pending marriage license, but also a sex tape of her having sexual relations with her partner to “prove” her lesbianism to the men who want to erase that aspect of her identity–the very identity that puts her and millions of other lesbians at risk of imprisonment and/or death.”
Ernakulam: The management of St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, has refused to allow the release of ‘Meenukal Chumbikkunnu,’ a novel themed on lesbian love, at the college auditorium saying that the event may ‘impact the minds of students.’
What is most saddening is, thanks to social stigma, a story like this is more often than not swept the under the carpet. It is because of such entrenched stigma that a couple — who merely sought to give their relationship a name — has been missing for more than two months, and it hasn’t received any mainstream media attention.
The faculty members and students at NSD appreciated the actors for their performances. Talking about the bold scenes in the play, Neha Singh, one of the actors, said, “I can’t say we are fearless. Even now, before performing our play in small towns, we are sometimes afraid that people might not like the play as it is too bold. But we have never censored our play.” She added, “Lesbian love remains one of the taboos on stage. There have been lesbian characters in plays, but not as central characters. In the case of queer plays, there are more gay characters than lesbians.”