Monday, March 13, 2006

Lesbian Couple Arrested, Probed for Eloping in India

(Link) At the request of their families, the police also forced the pair to submit to a gynecological exam because one of the young women wore pants. With family values like that, who wouldn't be tempted to flee the nest?

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Ann Rostow
GAY.COM/ Network

Two young Indian women are in police custody, the Times of India reports, after one of the girl's parents filed kidnapping charges against their daughter's lover.

According to the Times, Sonu Avtar Singh, 21, and Rekha Marwadi, 18, ran away together from their home in Panchmahals to a village in the Punjab region.

Shortly after their January 1st journey, Rekha's parents told police she had been kidnapped by Sonu, and further claimed that Sonu was a man dressed as a woman. In fact, Sonu is the reverse -- a young woman who wears shirts and pants and who later told police she wants to live as a man.

But the accusation was enough to send the police into action. The women were forced by authorities to return to their home town, where police checked them into a hospital for gynaecological examinations. Since Sonu was not, in fact, male, and since both women told police they wanted to live together and no kidnapping had taken place, the law enforcement officers seemed hamstrung.

"We are in love with each other and want to stay together forever," Rekha reportedly told police.

"We cannot accuse Sonu of kidnapping," said Panchmahals deputy police superintendent J.K. Bhatt. Nor, he added, could Sonu be charged with "unnatural sex" under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

"To invoke Section 377, one has to prove penetration," said Bhatt. "We have conducted a medical examination which proved that Sonu is a woman."

The fate of the women is unclear. But this is not the first story of its kind to arise out of the subcontinent. Last year, for example, Usha Yadav, 20, and Shilpi Gutpa, 22, were separated by their middle-class families after falling in love in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where Shilpa's family placed her under virtual house arrest. A stream of like scenarios have been reported over the last several years, most of them involving young lesbians.

"The families really do rule with regards to what young women should adhere to," says Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "So it's not at all unusual in India in particular for the police to be brought into a family dispute. We've heard many, many stories very similar to this one."

The good news, says Ettelbrick, is that India is an extremely diverse country and the world's largest democracy to boot. There is, for example, a strong legal challenge to the nation's sodomy law, and a number of LGBT groups operating throughout India.

"I think it's a long road," says Ettelbrick of the fight for LGBT civil rights in India, "but there is certainly a very active movement in all of the major cities, and in other parts of the country as well".