The Change India of 2020 Needs: Orissa HC Allows Woman to Live with Same-Sex Partner


The Change India of 2020 Needs: Orissa HC Allows Woman to Live with Same-Sex Partner

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Indian society’s attitude toward LGBT+ issues is changing for the better, something that was most recently reflected in a progressive judgement by the Orissa High Court. The court recognised the right of a same-sex couple to live together, as well as recognising one partner’s right to self-determine their gender, addressing them as “he” and “him” because he identified as male. The forward-thinking judgement received much praise for moving past archaic norms and being in tune with the changing values of the 21st century. Menaka Guruswamy, the Supreme Court advocate who was integral in having Section 377, which criminalised homosexuality, repealed, hailed it as a step in the right direction.

The Orissa HC was hearing the case of the petitioner, the “male partner” in the relationship, who claimed to have been in a relationship with the woman since 2017 until they were forcibly separated by the woman’s mother and uncle. The HC bench of Justice SK Mishra and Justice Savitri Ratho recognised the rights of the two adults to engage in a consensual live-in relationship according to their wishes. Both judges made statements underscoring this stand.

Justice Ratho, in her statement, said, “The freedom of choice is therefore available to the two individuals in this case who have decided to have a relationship and live together and society should support their decision.” Justice Ratho also said, “The oft-quoted maxim ‘Love has no bounds’ has expanded its bounds to include same-sex relationships,” in an emphatic recognition of the rights of queer individuals to choose their partners.

Justice Mishra’s statement was equally progressive, especially in how he accepted the right of the petitioner to self-determine his gender. He said, “There is hardly any scope to take a view other than holding that the petitioner has the right of self-determination of sex/gender and also he has the right to have a live-in relationship with a person of his choice even though such person may belong to the same gender as the petitioner.”

This ruling by the Orissa HC is another stride forward for LGBT+ rights in India.