Two lesbian women in India who were separated by their families and forced into arranged marriages have divorced their husbands and tied the knot in a symbolic ceremony.
The brides from the northern town of Hamirpur, who are 24 and 26 and haven’t been named for their own protection, traded garlands in a temple ceremony which has not been recognised by authorities, according to Hindustan Times.
Despite India not having legalised same-sex marriage, the newlyweds were optimistic about the future after their wedding on December 28, with one saying: “Our lawyer has told us that since the Supreme Court has done away with Section 377, we can stay together.
“No one can trouble us. We have been living together as a couple for some time now.”
“We were married off six months after leaving college, but could not forget each other.”
— One of the brides
The pair met in college more than six years ago and got together, but were forced to break up with each other and quit their studies after their families found out about the relationship.
They were forced into arranged marriages with men, but said they never lost hope.
“We were married off six months after leaving college, but could not forget each other,” said one of the women.
“We divorced our husbands and fought a legal battle to stay together again.”
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Lawyer of India lesbians wants to take issue to court
The couple’s lawyer, Daya Shankar Tiwari, has said he will challenge the registrar’s decision to not legally recognise the marriage. This raises the possibility of another landmark victory for Indian LGBT+ activists after the country’s Supreme Court overturned Section 377 last year, decriminalising gay sex.
Tiwari said that following the wedding in Uttar Pradesh, “the women are within their legal rights to stay together.”
RK Pal, the registrar who refused to legitimise the lesbian wedding and retired on December 31, defended his decision, asking: “How could I have registered the marriage when there is no such provision?
“Same-sex marriage is not allowed. We don’t even have an online proforma for it.”
LGBT+ people in India enjoy advances
The queer community in India has been able to celebrate some progress in recent times, following the decriminalisation of gay sex in September.
Last month, the trailer for groundbreaking lesbian love story Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga—which translates as How I Felt When I Saw That Girl—was revealed, starring Bollywood favourite Sonam Kapoor opposite her father Anil Kapoor.
The film, which is released on February 1, will mark the first time mainstream cinema in India has embraced a same-sex romance on the big screen.
And the second season of web series Gandii Baat 2, which starts on January 7, will include Bollywood star Flora Saini taking part in a lesbian sex scene.
The story line, which sees Saini get together with fellow Bollywood actress Anveshi Jain, will be a landmark moment for Indian TV.