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Tribe Blesses Lesbian Marriage December 8, 2006

Posted by qmediawatch in BBC News, English.
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6212756.stm

Sanjeya Jena  Orissa

An Indian tribe has given its consent to a lesbian ‘marriage’ in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

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.

It was not easy for Wetka and Melka to convince their tribe that they wanted to get married and live together – the local community at first fiercely protested at the idea. The two women then eloped to another village to escape the wrath of their neighbours.

‘Unhappy’

After much persuasion by family members, Kandha villagers of Dandabadi finally gave consent to the formal wedding. “They [Wetka and Melka] wanted to prove that they can live without the help of men. They also love each other very much. So we decided to forgive them,” said village elder Melka Powla.

But the two tribal women had to pay fines to their community to get it to bless their union – they offered a barrel of country liquor, a pair of oxen, and a sack of rice and hosted a family feast. Eventually, last month, Wetka applied vermillion on Melka’s forehead in the tradition of Indian marriage ceremonies before a disari or community priest, said village elder Dalimangi Chexa. Now the couple say they are happy.

“We are leading a blissful married life. We love each other very much,” Wetka told the BBC. Both the women have had unhappy experiences with men in the past. Wetka says she walked out of her marriage to an alcoholic after years of abuse.

Melka’s family had arranged her marriage with another local man much against her wishes – she managed to break the engagement by telling the man’s family that he was mentally “not normal”. The two women now hope to extend their family by adopting the son of Wetka’s elder brother.  

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