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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Gay couple hold Hindu wedding
Lesbian couple in India
Tanuja Chauhan and Jaya Verma: Marriage upset locals
By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

A lesbian couple in India have married in a Hindu ceremony in what is believed to be one of the first gay weddings in the country.

Jaya Verma and Tanuja Chauhan held the ceremony at home in the small township of Ambikapur in the central state of Chattisgarh.

The marriage, for which the women used a Hindu priest, still needs the approval of the local registrar to be legalised.

So far the registry office has refused to grant approval because Indian law does not recognise gay marriages.

But both women insist they will fight on until legislation is changed to allow gay couples the same rights in marriage as heterosexual couples.

Shock

Many local residents have expressed their concern at the marriage, including a leading lawyer, who said he was in a state of shock.

The couple's landlord has now asked them to leave their home.

Homosexual relationships are not unheard of in India - but they generally exist in the country's larger cities where people can be more open about their sexuality.

Both Jaya and Tanuja say they won't let criticism, and possibly even abuse, from other local residents prevent them from leading their life together.

Gay rights campaigners have welcomed the news.

The Naz Foundation in Delhi, which runs a helpline for gay women, says every couple has the right to have their relationship solemnised, regardless of sexual orientation, and that Indian law must change to recognise this.

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