Riju* and Maya* could now live together, legally. On Monday, the Kerala High Court said yes to their wishes – the lesbian couple could live together. They don’t need to be afraid anymore, though there’s a lot of reason for them to be.
Incidents of the past two months have not exactly been peachy for these two women, who have known each other for over two years now. “We met over an online site for lesbians and fell in love,” says Riju, a day after she took Maya home.
Riju is now 36 and Maya, 24. At the time they decided to live together, the Supreme Court verdict decriminalising homosexuality had not yet come. “If we had known it was coming so soon, we would have waited a little more,” Riju says.
It was a few months ago that Maya’s family became aware of her relationship. Coming from a remote place in Neyyatinkara, Thiruvananthapuram, she did not find it easy convincing her parents about the relationship.
It was easier for Riju, who lived with her sister and the sister’s child in Kollam. She says, “I just told them about bringing Maya home.” The two had by then decided to live together.
Trouble came when Maya, after leaving with Riju, informed her family of the decision, says Advocate KK Preetha who presented Riju’s case along with advocates Ferha and Prasanth. “After Maya informed her family, they went to the Neyyatinkara police station with a missing person complaint. The couple then got a call from the police station to present themselves at the station,” Preetha says.
Maya and Riju came to the station and the Parassala police (under whose jurisdiction the case falls) presented them at the Neyyatinkara court which declared them both ‘set at liberty’.
The two were leaving the court together when Maya’s relatives came in a car, beat them both up and took her away. She was then admitted at a hospital for mental health in Thiruvananthapuram, from where she contacted Riju through text messages. Riju visited her at the hospital twice before Maya’s family took her away from there.
There was no more news of the younger partner for days. That’s when Riju filed a Habeas Corpus at the High Court last week, requiring Maya be produced before the court. "For a while I fought alone, felt alone. But then I contacted my community members - like Jijo of Queerala. They came to my help. So did the advocates," says Riju.
On the day of the judgement, Riju was tense. “I went with a 50-50 feeling, but trusting that Maya would say yes, she would want to come with me,” she says. She was right. Maya said exactly that when the court asked her who she’d like to go with.
“When Maya said she wants to go with the petitioner (Riju) the court gave the verdict in favour of them, in light of the recent declaration by the Supreme Court against section 377,” Preetha says.
The couple are now at Riju’s home, feeling safe at last. “No, I am not afraid they would attack us again. That was their place, and the attack was sudden. We were not expecting it. Now they are not going to harm us here,” Riju says.
Riju was working in Kuwait before all this, and plans to go again once everything is settled. Maya would find a job in Kollam. “We hope to get married too, one day soon,” Riju says.
*Names changed to protect privacy