Right to Love and Choose One’s Partner! When?

On 6th September, as Queerala joined the celebrations of the Supreme Court’s verdict which pronounced IPC Sec 377 unconstitutional, we happened to receive a phone call from Riju*, a 36 years old person. The distressed call, only made clear the fact that we have a long way to go till queer people get any respite from their struggles in homophobic Kerala.

Riju, a person from Kollam and who was assigned female at birth shared personal agony of not being able to connect with their partner Maya* (25), who was under house arrest by her family in for than a week now.

They met over a dating app for queer women and have been in relationship from the past two years and were in the process of starting to live together, last month.

Riju had support from their* family and decided to bring Maya to home before leaving to Middle East, where the person works in a supermarket. Maya started facing emotional harassment from her family when they found out about their relationship. As the torment from her family became unbearable, she, who was trying for a job after post graduate studies, asked Riju to come to her home and safely shift her to Kollam, where Riju resides. Riju went to Maya’s house in rural Trivandrum, on 13 Aug 2018 and both caught train to Kollam. While on the train, they received a call from Maya’s family asking Maya to be back home. Though they sensed a tone of emotional blackmail in the telephonic conversation, they didn’t think that the next call to their mobile would be from the local Police. Upon call from the Police, they both had to travel back to the local police station for enquiry process as the Police stated that they got formal complaint of woman-missing case from Maya’ family. From this station, they were shifted to another police station by late evening. Though Maya explicitly mentioned to the cops that she was not kidnapped and had gone with Riju with her full consent, the police tried to morally police them and asked Riju to leave the station. But, both Maya and Riju were quite determined and refused to be separated from each other. Finally, the police wrote them off by calling them ‘feminists’!

The couple was detained at the police station overnight to be produced at the local Magistrate Court, the next day; i.e on 14Aug2018. Next morning, as Riju was waiting outside the Magistrate Chamber for Maya to come out after hearing, Riju was approached by two male advocates who asked to submit Maya’s certificates for verification that she had taken when she left her parent’s house. Though Riju was apprehensive to handover the certificates, Riju ended up handing it over to the advocates upon their persuasion. As Maya came out post the hearing, both realized that Maya’s documents were neither given for any verification nor handed over to Maya or Riju.

However, they felt joyful as Maya who had appeared before the magistrate said that she wants to live with Riju [The court issued an order, dated 14Aug2018, stating the crime (No.1437/18 of Parassala Police Station) of which Maya was charged off hold, as the court has found no reason for warranting further detention].As they both were about to leave the court on 14th evening, Maya’s parents and a male relative of Maya surrounded them and they asked Maya to go with them. On resisting, they man-handled Riju that Riju got beaten on face, body and legs. Riju fell down and got up only to get next rounds of physical bashing as the parents were shouting comments like “You are part of sex racket and you are trying to traffic our daughter’’. Riju was helpless and they took Maya with them and none of the spectators came forward for help even though all this happened inside the court premises.

Riju visited the local police station next day to file a complaint against man handling faced by her and to seek help from police to find Maya. Riju was promised that both of them will be presented at court for hearing soon. But, having received no communication from the police station, Riju had no clue on what would happen next. But soon Riju received a message from Maya who said that she has been taken to mental health centre. Riju visited the centre, the next day, only to find out that Maya’s parents had asked the hospital authorities to not let any person visit her. Apparently, Maya managed to speak with the superintendent who assured her visiting rights on submission of a copy of the court order by Riju. Due to flood aftermath and Onam holidays, the Court Order came through only after two weeks or so. During this time, though erratic, Riju was communicating with Maya over text messages and Watsapp. When Riju visited the centre on 03Sep, Riju was told that Maya has been discharged and that she went with her parents. But, somehow, Maya had gained all strength to contact Maya and got response from her that she was been taken to her mother’ native where they took a rented house and kept her without any option for communication with any space or person outside the house. Their conversations continued for few more days as Maya secretly used her mobile before it was found and broken by her father; the next round of secret texting followed, from her parents’ mobile after which Riju has had no communication from their partner, Maya.

Riju, who is a Dalit person and met Queerala yesterday (11Sep), broke down while showing the unhealed marks of the wounds due to the manhandling faced. Her solitary struggle vividly highlight how molded Kerala is, be it any city or rural enclave, to have queer people living with the Rights and Dignity they deserve! This isn’t a rare instance of mishap faced by queer couples, in Kerala. In fact numerous such incidents occur, but, in this case, Riju finds the strength to move legally against this injustice with trust on the judiciary. We don’t want to witness a sad ending of their relationship due to emotional burden from family or moral depositions about the queer couple’s Right to Love but Life with Dignity while enjoying Equality and Freedom of Expression, at times of 377 verdict.

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals; Riju is a female assigned at birth individual and prefer pronoun thier and Maya is a lesbian woman. All the information given above are true to the best of our knowledge and as heard from Riju over various telephonic conversations, direct meeting and verification of copies of relevant documents pertaining to the case.