“Nothing will change even if section 377 gets abolished. We will still live the same lives that we are living now; society is after us now, they’ll be after us even after the elimination of section 377,” said Palak (name changed) in an immediate reaction to what might change after homosexual marriages become legal in India.
A 29-year-old woman, Palak is from a small town near Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh). She recalls how back in school, conversations surrounding male crushes within the girl’s group never interested her. “I never understood why somebody would talk about boys when strings and guitars would start playing in my head as I watched my female crushes at school,” giggles Palak.
Palak belongs to a conservative Jaat family. She says that she could never have an open conversation with her family about sexuality. However, she believes that her mother could sense what was ‘going on’. “I often cried and used to get depressed thinking I was ‘different’ and I could not share it with anybody. The place I was living in, one could never imagine talking about having a different orientation. I could sense that my mother knew everything but we never talked about it.”
Fighting all the odds, Palak decided to come to Delhi and worked as a journalist for five years. Presently, she is in a relationship with a ‘Brahmin’ woman who has not come out with her sexuality either.
The duality of her life still haunts her; more so as she worries about her partner succumbing to the family pressure of getting married to a boy. Moreover, she says that even if homosexual marriages were legal in India, the society would never accept them. “My partner and I take part in Pride parades every year and in other meetings of the LGBT community. This is not because I have high hopes that I will ever be able to marry my partner; both of us know that we will not to able to do that if we keep living in this country. The society will never accept us. We attend the Pride parades because there’s just one day in the year when the members of the LGBT community can come out in full colours and walk on the streets fearlessly with our ‘husbands’ and ‘wives’.”
Palak is aiming to become a professional photographer and her work has been exhibited internationally. She says that the thought of having a changed society never come to her mind since she and her partner have no space to talk about their ‘love’ within their family circles and at their homes. “We have no hopes from this society. The thought of people understanding our love never occur to us since we are living our living fighting our families,” says Palak.
“Legalising homosexual marriages will not change anything for us. Our condition will still be the same as it is now. What will the stamp of marriages being legal mean for us? We can hold hands or kiss on the streets now and we will not be able to do it after section 377 is abolished,” she adds.
Women in India are presumed to follow the gender norms which society pressurises them into. Palak and her partner are but one face among many lesbian couples who are stuck in the duality of life. Stuck in the midst of hopelessness and love, these couples strive for an identity.