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No Fear No Favour

Lesbian Marriage Causes A Stir In Bengaluru, Leaves Local Police In Fix.

In the first lesbian “wedding” in Bengaluru, a 25-year-old woman tied the knot with a 21-year-old at a temple in Koramangala. The parents of the younger woman have filed a complaint with the police, who are now “counselling” the couple and hope to “make them aware” of the negative fallout of their decision.

Same-sex marriages are not legal in India. The Supreme Court re-criminalised Section 377 in 2013 after the Delhi High Court struck it down in 2009.

As a matter of fact, the women are distant relatives. Shilpa (name changed) is studying B.Com in a private college in Bengaluru and her father officiates weddings; the older one (let’s call her Sahana) works in a call center and her father runs a business.

In her statement to the police, Sahana said that she was attracted to Shilpa when she was in her teens. But since Shilpa belonged to a very orthodox family, Sahana decided to make her comfortable in the modern world, hence took her out for shopping at malls and bought western clothes for her. But when Sahana expressed her love for Shilpa, it was met with rejection. But over the course of time, she won her over.

In May 2017, the two decided to run away from their homes as their relationship would never be accepted. The younger one started living in a PG accommodation while the older woman looked for a place. Finally, she struck gold and soon moved together to a place in Koramangala.

Sahana and Shilpa then contacted an advocate and an NGO and informed the police that they do not wish to go back to their families and that they were very happy together and very much in love.

Both the families informed the police about the “wedding” and their active sexual relations. The police, however, have turned a blind eye towards this and has said they will interfere in this only if either of the girls lodges a complaint against this. The police then referred this case to Vanitha Sahayavani in police commissioner’s office. Senior counsellor BS Saraswathi said that both of the women were “under counselling”.

The parents are even thinking of availing “psychiatric counselling” for the women.

Section 377, which criminalises homosexual sex states: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Now there is an ongoing debate whether both of the women should be criminally prosecuted or not. Gowthaman Ranga, of the Alternative Law Forum, said that since both are adults and have discovered love, nobody should persecute and prosecute them under Section 377. “The 2013 judgement categorically says that one cannot be booked under Section 377 based on identity {gays or lesbians}. However, it varies from case to case.”

Whereas, former public prosecutor S Doreraju said: “Lesbian marriage is not recognised and is a punishable offence under Section 377, provided one of them becomes a complainant. Parents of both the women can also lodge a complaint but not under IPC section 377. They can give other reasons such as ‘psychological imbalance’ or ‘negatively influencing’ the other woman.”

While all this mess is brimming, Shilpa has decided not to go back to her family and instead stay with an NGO till the issue is resolved.

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