Noora and Adila had eloped last week, but returned with Adila's parents on the basis of promises. Then, Noora was allegedly abducted by her own family.

A selfie of Noora and Adila. Noora and Adila. Picture by arrangement.
news LGBTQIA+ Tuesday, May 31, 2022 - 16:30

A lesbian couple in Kerala was reunited in the Kerala High Court on May 31 after one of them was abducted by her own family and alleged to have been forced into conversion therapy last week. Shockingly, when the abducted woman’s partner and activists went to the Thamarassery police station in Calicut to file a complaint against her family, the police refused help claiming this was an internal family issue. Forced to file a habeas corpus petition in court, the partner finally managed to meet the woman on May 31.

Adila and Noora — both adults in their early 20s — have been in a relationship for a few years now. They came out to their  families on May 19. Their families objected to their relationship, so the couple eloped and sought shelter at Vanaja Collective in Calicut that helps marginalised communities, on the same day. The same night, both sets of parents reached Vanaja Collective and tried to take their daughters away. While Noora’s parents were unsuccessful, Adila’s parents managed to convince the couple to come with them, and promised the couple and Vanaja Collective that they will take care of Noora as well as their own daughter.

But once Adila and Noora were taken to a relative’s house in Aluva in Ernakulam, the family allegedly put emotional pressure on the two young women. They were not allowed to sleep at all, Adila alleged, because the family was afraid they would get intimate.

Things got worse on May 24 for the couple. On May 23, Noora’s parents filed a missing complaint with the Thamarassery police station in Calicut. On May 24, the Binanipuram police station in Aluva summoned the couple on the basis of Noora’s parents’ complaint. However on realising that both women were adults, the Binanipuram Circle Inspector refused to take action on the parents’ false complaint, and the couple returned to Adila’s relative’s house.

Soon however, Noora’s family including her mother, grandparents and aunt, reached Adila’s relative’s house and forcefully took Noora away. At this point, Adila’s father — who had returned to Kerala from Saudi Arabia a couple of days earlier — physically restrained Adila while Noora’s family dragged her away. Vanaja Collective came to know about the incident while it was happening and called the Binanipuram police, who arrived at Adila’s relative’s house. But by then, Noora had been taken away by her family. The police rescued Adila and housed her at a shelter home.

Adila’s friend Dhanya, a witness to Noora being forcefully taken away, said they were scared that Noora will be subjected to physical and sexual abuse. “Noora’s aunt had said that ‘this will change once she senses the pleasure from a male,” Dhanya said.

On May 27, Vanaja Collective and Adila approached the Thamarassery police in Calicut to file a complaint against Noora’s family — but the police refused to register an FIR claiming this was a family matter and they couldn’t intervene. The Binanipuram CI who had helped the couple earlier meanwhile was sent a video from Noora’s family; the video, which was shown to Adila, had Noora standing next to her mother and saying, “My name is Noora, I am a lesbian, and my partner’s name is Adila. I need assurance that she is safe, I am safe here.” However, Noora’s location was unknown.

On May 29, Adila managed to speak to Noora on the phone, where the latter hinted that she was being forced into conversion therapy, Adila said. Noora was in the presence of a counsellor named Ali, and her mother, during the call. “When I asked Ali where he worked, he didn’t reveal exact details, he said ‘I work at many places.’ I have never heard Noora speaking very rudely to her mother, but that day I did,” Adila said. “Noora was telling her mother, ‘If you annoy me further, I will tell her what you did.’ While talking about the counselling, Noora asked me whether I ‘understood’ where she was. She sent me enough hints. She had so much more to tell me but the call was on loud speaker. The counsellor told me that if I have to speak to Noora again, I would have to take permission from several places,” Adila said on May 29.

Conversion therapy is an unscientific process of ‘changing’ a person’s sexual orientation or gender. The practice has been banned by the Madras High Court.

On May 30, Noora arrived at the Kerala High Court after Adila filed a habeas corpus petition. The court did not allow anyone other than the couple to be present at the proceeding, according to Dhanya, who has been helping the couple. “In just a five to six minute court proceeding, Adila and Noora were asked by the court if they wanted to live together, they said yes. Now they are reunited," Dhanya said. Further details on what happened to Noora while she had been abducted are awaited.

Mrudula Bhavani is a freelance journalist based in Kerala. She reports on state policies with a focus on gender spectrum, law, public health, caste, and environment.

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