Above: Gay couples continue to face harassment despite SC legalising gay sex in 2018/Photo: UNI
In a rare judgment, the Rajasthan High Court has come out in support of a lesbian couple and asked the police to ensure that they come to no physical harm
By Asif Ullah Khan in Jaipur
A small village in Dausa district of Rajasthan, called Gudha Ashikpura, has been shaken to the core by two lovers and has made their lives hell. They have now approached the Rajasthan High Court. But then, being lesbian lovers in India is never easy.
Rekha Bairwa and Usha Rai Mahar, both 24, have known each other since childhood. On December 20, 2018, they decided to formalise this friendship as a matrimonial bond and got secretly married in a temple.
Aware that this matrimonial alliance would not be accepted by their families and communities, Rekha told India Legal: “We did not take pictures of the marriage and went back to our respective homes. But now, we want to live together and people have made our lives hell. Not only our families, the entire village has turned against us. Wherever we go, we face taunts and remarks.”
When these remarks turned into threats of physical violence, Rekha said: “We filed a complaint with the police seeking protection from our relatives and local goons. But our relatives paid money to the police and no action was taken against them.” Not getting relief from any quarter, they knocked on the doors of the Rajasthan High Court.
On February 26, Rekha and Usha filed an affidavit in the court of Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia, in which they stated their ordeal. The affidavit said that they had known each for the past 5-6 years as they used to study together. “We like each other and want to spend our lives together and on December 20, 2018 we got married without any duress and pressure. We did not get photographed as we were afraid of our families. But now we want to live together. We don’t want to get married to any man and if we both want, we will adopt a child.” Both women mentioned the names of their family members and one Rakesh from their village who had been threatening them.
The counsel for the petitioner, Bhim Sen Bairwa, told India Legal that the petition was filed under Section 483 of the CrPC. Justice Ahluwalia asked the registrar of the court to record their statements.
His order stated: “Both the petitioners belong to the same gender. They want to live together. After going through the contents of the statements made by the petitioners and the desire expressed by them, a direction is issued to respondent no 4 (SHO, Bandikui police station, Dausa district) to ensure necessary vigil that no physical harm is caused to the lives of the petitioners.”
Calling this a unique judgment, Bairwa said that in his legal career of over 15 years, this was the first time he had seen such a case. “I take up cases of human rights and when the petitioners came to me through a lawyer of their district, I immediately decided to take up their cause as it was an issue of the human rights of two individuals,” he said. Though there had been clear judgments about providing protection to couples of love marriages, he said: “This is the first time I have seen a judgment regarding giving protection to a same-sex couple.”
However, despite the High Court order, the ground realities for both Rekha and Usha have not changed. They are still harassed by the villagers. In a telephonic interview, Rekha told India Legal that societal pressure had increased after they came out with their marriage. “Both of us still live in our respective homes and now our families are pressuring us to get us married to men. Lewd and vulgar remarks are hurled at us whenever they see us together. Some call us hijras (eunuchs), while some say either of them has married a man secretly and they are staging this drama to hide that fact.”
Rekha alleged that one local goon called Rakesh has made their lives hell. Despite filing a police complaint against him, he continues to harass them. “He has threatened us with bodily harm,” Rekha said. “We want the police to take action against him as he has made it difficult for us to live in the village.” For obvious reasons, the women did not want their picture taken.
When India Legal contacted Rajendra Kumar, SHO of Bandikui police station, he said he was aware of the High Court order and would implement it. However, when told that the women were still being harassed, he said he had once gone to their village, but could not meet them. “They have not contacted me till now. If they come to the police station and name the people harassing them, I will definitely take action against them,” he said, adding that as he was in Rajasthan High Court, Jaipur, regarding a case, he would return to Bandikui and personally go to the village and listen to their grievances.
Despite all odds, Rekha and Usha have decided that they will live together. Life is tough for such lovers in India.