Two lesbian women in India, Kavita Arora and Ankita Khanna, are one of two same-sex couples fighting for same-sex marriage rights in the Delhi High Court.
India’s marriage laws – the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), Special Marriage Act (SMA) and Foreign Marriage Act – prohibit same-sex marriages.
Arora and Khanna (pictured) have been together for eight years, but officials denied their marriage registration. Last October, they and another gay male couple went to the court last October to argue for marriage equality.
India’s Supreme Court finally decriminalised same-sex relationships in 2018. However Arora and Khanna’s relationship still has no legal status and the women are “strangers in law”.
“We have created a great life together, but where is the legitimacy to that?” Khanna told TIME.
In their petition to the court, the women explain, “Marriage is not just a relationship between two individuals. It brings two families together.
“But it is also a bundle of rights.
“We wish to have the protection of the bundle of rights that a marriage provides, so that we are not trying to get authorities to acknowledge our relationship for every entitlement or right that married couples would get automatically.”
The couple work together as a psychologist and a psychiatrist, and are dedicating the court case to the queer youth they work with.
“When I was 18, I wish I’d had an ordinary couple to relate to,” Arora told TIME.
“In many ways, I am doing this for my younger self.”
Government says same-sex marriages in India ‘aren’t recognised by laws or society’
Two gay men also launched separate legal petition for marriage equality. The couple tried to register their US marriage under the FMA but authorities denied the registration.
Three Indian LGBTIQ activists have also filed a third legal petition. All three cases are arguing the laws forbidding the same-sex marriages are unconstitutional.
They argue India’s marriage laws use gender-neutral language and should apply equally to all couples, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.
India’s central government earlier told the Delhi High Court that same-sex marriages were “not permissible” as it was not recognised by “our laws, legal system, society and our values”.
Earlier this month, the Court gave the central and Delhi governments a final opportunity to formally respond to the legal pleas, The Hindu reported.
The court has listed the matter for a hearing on February 25.
The same-sex couples’ fight for marriage equality comes two years after India decriminalised homosexuality.
In 2018, India’s Supreme Court struck down the long-standing Section 377 law. The landmark ruling finally legalised gay relationships in India.
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