“Now we have freedom, we can live according to our dreams now.”
Adela Nasreen and Fatima Noora hit the headlines earlier this year when a court in the southern Indian state of Kerala allowed the two women to live together again after being forcibly separated by their parents. When the family forbade them both to live together, they both approached the court.
Last month, these two once again became the adornment of the media. This time the reason was their wedding photos. In these pictures, both can be seen as a bride. Adorned with silver jewelery and clad in lehengas, the couple beamed as they exchanged rings and rose garlands under a canopy by the sea in Ernakulam district.
When 23-year-old Fatima Nora shared the pictures on her Facebook page, a queue of people congratulated the couple. “We just tried to do a photo shoot because we thought the idea was very interesting,” Adela Nasreen expressed feeling to the BBC over the phone. According to Adela Nasreen, ‘We are not married yet, but at some point, we want to get married.’
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India’s Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in 2018 after a decades-long legal battle by social activists and LGBT groups. Awareness of this community in India has grown over the years, but such couples still face stigma and resistance to full acceptance. Fatima and Adila are also very aware of it. She says that she still faces threats of separation from Fatima’s family.
Same-sex marriages are not legal in India, although petitions for legalization are pending in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, many same-sex couples have attended commitment ceremonies.
Fatima and Adeela were allowed to live together by the Kerala High Court, but they do not have the privileges or rights that a married couple would enjoy in India. According to Adela, “If we fill a form, they ask the name of the wife, husband or father.” At my workplace and elsewhere, I still have to use my father’s name. We were in a hospital recently and had to tell our father’s name. It was disappointing. This is all the more difficult because these women do not have a good relationship with their families.
Fatima and Adeela met in high school and became close from there. After leaving school, they lived with their families in different districts of Kerala and there was a gap of three years in their meeting. During this period, both of them were pursuing college studies in different districts of Kerala and occasionally spoke to each other on the phone. The groups they met advised them both to complete their education first and then get a job. This is the advice the duo now offers to others who approach them for this purpose.
Adila says she knows it won’t be easy to leave her conservative family behind to live in a new bond. “In our community, many people don’t have a good educational background,” she adds. When we try to help people find jobs, a lack of education can be a hindrance.”
This is why she advises anyone who may be in a similar situation to become financially independent first. “Having a job is very important to live the life you want,” says Fatima. Financial security means you are not at the mercy of anyone else.
Since the court order, the couple say they don’t miss a thing by looking back. The freedom she feels is reflected in the parts of her life she shares on social media. Fatima says that my intention is not going to change now. It seems we have left the bitter memories behind.
The couple say they are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support they have received. She has given several interviews, featured in a popular women’s magazine and a TV show, where her story was hailed as one of strength and courage.
“Now even if we wear masks and glasses, people recognize us and so far the public’s attention has been warm and encouraging,” says Adeela. She says that her family still believes that their relationship is a one-time affair and similar comments appear on his Facebook and Instagram pages. She has her supporters and well-wishers as well as critics, who say she sets a bad example and should marry men.
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