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A priest belonging to the Kandha tribe led the ceremony between Wetka Polang, 30, and Melka Nilsa, 22, in Koraput district recently. Both the women are day labourers and now live together in Dandabadi village. Same-sex relationships are outlawed in India. The 145-year-old colonial Indian Penal Code clearly describes a same sex relationship as an “unnatural offence”. Sociologists say that a community blessing a same-sex ‘marriage’ is unheard of in India.


Initially the girls’ parents did not take their relationship seriously, but gradually their family members became suspicious about them. Repeated threats by the families failed to separate them. As community pressure mounted, the girls ran away. “We resisted their marriage because it was against our tradition. But they were in no mood to listen and eloped. They were later caught at a village fair. Finally, we were compelled to get them married according to our tradition. I have accepted Maleka as my daughter-in-law,” said Panti, Bateka’s mother.The phenomenon of same-sex marriages is new in tribal society, said Bhubaneswar-based Tribal Research and Training Centre director A B Hota. “Tribal tradition is totally opposed to same-sex marriages,” he added, hinting at the pressure that must have been brought to bear on the girls. According to Kondh tradition, the groom’s family has to give a dowry to the bride’s parents. “We gave a tin of wine and a cow to the girl’s parents before the marriage,” Panti added.

“We are happy after getting each other as life partners and are committed to living together. If our community members or families try to separate us, we will run away again,” the couple said.

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