This article originally appeared on VICE India.
In the Alirajpur district in Madhya Pradesh in India, the local police has arrested a 19-year-old girl for allegedly “kidnapping” a 17-year-old girl. The accused teenager, who has known the “victim” for almost two years, was charged by the latter’s father. The girl has now been booked under Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises kidnapping any person from lawful guardianship. Punishment for the same varies from imprisonment up to seven years, to a fine.
The local officials have noted that the incident took place in Pangola village, which is around 50 kms from Alirajpur, and the case was registered after the minor’s father filed a report of abduction of his daughter. “He has alleged that the accused abducted his daughter two months ago. We have tracked down both the girls and have recorded their statements. The minor girl will be handed over to the parents while the 19-year-old will be produced in court on Wednesday," RS Bhakar, the sub-divisional officer of the police, told the Press Trust of India.
However, even as her partner got arrested, the minor girl has told the media that the two had known each other for one-and-a-half years, and considers the latter as her “husband”. She added that the two had moved to Gujarat last year and lived in for around five months, which resulted in a dispute that was later resolved by the community panchayat. Reports quote the 17-year-old confirming that she wants to stay with the accused since they’re in love.
Last year in September, the Supreme Court of India read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised gay sex. However, issues such as marriage, adoption and housing rights are still unaddressed. A few months ago, a Kerala court ruled in favour of a lesbian couple living in together after one of them was forcibly separated and admitted to a mental institution by her mother. Coming close on the heels of the Section 377 verdict, this ruling was seen as a landmark for same-sex couples who want to live together. In another positive news, Indian sprinter Dutee Chand became the first sportsperson to come out as queer, in May this year.
However, persecution still exists. Earlier last month, a lesbian couple in Chennai recounted a now-viral incident in which the two were thrown out of a club for making people “uncomfortable”. In June, a lesbian couple in Uttar Pradesh sought police protection from their families to get married, while another eloped after threats came from their parents. In May, a lesbian teenager in Odisha was tied to a tree and beaten up for “damaging” the reputation of her village. In one of the most homophobic countries in the world, many such stories abound, and, more often than not, rarely make news. But those that do, become examples in a system and society that’s yet to accept them.
Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.