A wedding ceremony between two female cousins in Varanasi, India has taken the holy city, and social media, by storm.
Worried that their parents would arrange their marriages to other people, the couple traveled from their home town to have their relationship blessed on Wednesday (3 July).
Photos of the ritual have gone viral on social media.
India does not recognize equal marriage and only decriminalized gay sex last year.
Varanasi is one of Hinduism’s most sacred places. Every year thousands of pilgrims come to bathe in the sacred river, the Ganges, there.
India Today reports it is probably the first same-sex marriage in the city.
Jeans and T-shirts
The pair arrived at the city in jeans and t-shirts.
They visited a temple dedicated to the Hindu deity, Shiva. They pulled red chunni, a long scarf traditionally worn at Indian weddings, out of their bags and donned them.
The priest initially refused to perform the ceremony, but the girls sat inside the temple until he relented.
‘They said that they have come from Kanpur for their marriage’ the priest said, according to the Times of India.
‘On asking about their grooms, they said that they wanted to spend life with each other’.
The two women offered prayers, exchanged garlands, and applied vermillion to each other’s foreheads.
A large crowd of people gathered during the ceremony, according to the priest.
The pair reportedly met while one was staying with the other during her studies at university.
LGBTI rights in India
Nearly 2 out of 5 LGBTI Indians believe battling for equal rights and social acceptance is the biggest issue facing the community, a YouGov survey found.
India’s Supreme Court in September last year ruled the country’s anti-gay law was unconstitutional.
Section 377 of India’s colonial-era Penal Code punished gay sex with up to 10 years in prison. But, the Supreme Court said it violated rights to privacy.
Indians, therefore, celebrated the decriminalization of an estimated 4.5 million LGBTI people.
But, LGBTI activists and leaders warned it would take time for society and businesses to accept homosexuality.
India currently does not protect LGBTI people with anti-discrimination legislation.
What’s more, the transgender population has slammed a government bill purported to protect their rights.