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When Payal met Kanchan, back in 2017, she had no idea she would fall in love with her fellow trainee. In the same year, the Supreme Court had ruled that gay sex was no longer a criminal offence, overturning a previous judgement that upheld a colonial-era law. But age-old customs and regressive attitudes survived, making it difficult for same-sex relationships to be accepted by larger society.
Both girls, aged 24, have been living together as a couple since 2018 in the western Indian state of Gujarat. After moving in together, they have been facing discrimination and feel alienated. Their love story came to the limelight last month when they approached the high court.
"Our families are against our relationship. They are threatening us," Payal said, as reported by BBC. The couple has filed an application before the court, asking for police protection as they've been receiving threats. Following their plea for protection, the court ruled that the couple should be protected by armed guards.
Payal and Kanchan grew up in two remote villages in Gujarat. A conservative and patriarchal culture still resides in the remote villages of India where men are usually given the authority to make decisions.
Contrary to their culture, both of them said that they wanted to break barriers and felt inspired to enter a field dominated by men. They wanted to join the police forces and settled on it.
According to them, others in the force were reluctant to speak to them since they came from rural parts of the state whereas the rest were from bigger towns and cities. Instantly, they felt alienated from their peers. The two women were assigned the same room during police training.
Soon, they became best friends and promised each other to stay in touch through the phone as their training ended. Coincidentally, the two were then posted to the same city and they decided to live in police accommodation, sharing a room.
"We were happy with our work and as time passed, our lives started to revolve around each other," said Kanchan as reported by BBC. They were sure that they had fallen in love and wanted to stay with each other.
Soon, the families of the two women began asking them to get married. Kanchan's family had already lined up suitable matches for her. It was at the end of last year when their colleagues living in the police quarters found out about their relationship and then the couple decided to tell their own families.
Their families went in a state of shock and soon started following them as well as keeping a constant check on their movements. The girls alleged that they started receiving threats from their families.
Recalling an incident, they shared that once the family members came by the police quarters and created a scene at the station by using abusive language. Also, they started receiving death threats and then they finally decided to approach the court for protection.
The couple is happy that the court has ruled in their favour and granted them protection. It has allowed them to think of the future together. The couple is hopeful of staying together in the near future and also wants to adopt a child.
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