A high court in India has instructed police to protect a lesbian couple facing abuse from their family and people in living in their village.
It is one of a handful of such judgments since India dramatically decriminalized gay sex last year.
What’s more, the couple’s story highlights the risk same-sex couples still face in India.
‘Made our lives hell’
Rekha Bairwa and Usha Rai Mahar, both 24, have known each other since school, according to India Legal Live.
Though India does not officially recognize same-sex marriages, they secretly celebrated their love at a temple in December last year.
‘We did not take pictures of the marriage and went back to our respective homes’ the couple told India Legal Live.
But, their community found out.
‘Not only our families but the entire village has also turned against us. Wherever we go, we face taunts and remarks’ they said.
‘We want to live together and people have made our lives hell’.
After they were physically abused, they went to local police. But, the couple say, their families paid money to avoid charges.
Take it to court
So, the pair went to the Rajasthan High Court.
Their legal counsel, Bhim Sen Bairwa, said it was the first such case he had seen in 15-year legal career.
Bairwa said he was keen to take up the case as it was a human rights issue.
The judge registered the case and asked local police to ‘ensure necessary vigil that no physical harm is caused to the lives of the petitioners’.
But, according to India Legal Live, the pair still face abuse.
‘Both of us still live in our respective homes and now our families are pressuring us to get us married to men’ the said.
‘Lewd and vulgar remarks are hurled at us whenever they see us together’.
Local police told India Legal Live they had received the judge’s order and would implement it.
India’s Supreme Court on 6 September ruled to alter colonial-era, Section 377 of the Penal Code. The 1861 law criminalized ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’.
The law applied to anal and oral sex. It therefore effectively criminalized homosexuality, with those convicted under the law facing up to 10 years in jail.
In October last year, two courts demonstrated the justice system was working to uphold the ruling.
A lesbian couple in India rushed to the capital, Delhi, to seek protection from their families who disapprove of the relationship. Delhi High Court granted them police protection.
The same month, the High Court of Kerala in south India ruled that a lesbian couple should live together.
In January this year, Delhi High Court again ruled in favor of two women who wanted to live together.
LGBTI rights activists in India have warned that decriminalization is just the beginning of equal rights. It will take a long time for society to change, they warn.