Indian courts say a woman who left her husband to live with another woman had the right to pursue whatever relationship she chooses.
The Delhi High Court decided that a woman could not be compelled to stay with her marital partner and had “inalienable human and fundamental rights” of her own, as reported by The Indian Express.
When the married woman left her husband in October to live with her girlfriend, the husband filed a missing person's report. The married woman then went to the police to make clear she was alive and had left her husband of her own accord. The Indian court system got involved, with the married woman's parents claiming her relationship with a woman was causing her harm and she should be compelled to return to her husband.
High Court justices wrote in a decision that the “expression of the woman’s choice to reside with her 'friend' is strictly within the ambit of inalienable human and fundamental rights that she is entitled to as part and parcel of the basic freedoms enshrined, guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of India.”
The landmark decision allowing a woman agency over whom she chooses to live with marks a step forward in women’s rights in the nation and also a stride forward in recognizing the fundamental right of individuals to pursue same-sex relationships over the objection of family members.
The court dismissed concerns raised by the woman’s parents as “not only about her well being, but the ramifications of her relationship with the petitioner/friend, which, in their view, may be a cause for embarrassment and humiliation to them.”
The ruling comes mere months after Indian officials decriminalized gay sex. Lawmakers in the country decriminalized gay sex in 2009, but conservative lawmakers reestablished such acts as criminal in 2013. Then, in September, the country’s top court unanimously ruled that gay sex is legal throughout India.
In 2017, Indian courts determined individuals had a right to privacy in revealing their sexual orientation. And a year ago, the nation a year ago saw the opening of its first gender-neutral restrooms.
With an estimated population of more than 1.3 billion, India remains the second most populous nation in the world behind China.