A lesbian couple have burnt themselves to death in the southern Indian city of Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu. There were social pressures to separate the two.
The police recovered the charred bodies of the women, who died hugging each other, from the residence of one of the women in the northern part of the city on Saturday.
Police identified the couple as Christy Jayanthi Malar (38) and Rukmani (40).
Malar and Rukmani studied in the same class at a Tondiarpet school. Later they got married and were living in adjoining areas. But they continued to meet each other, and the friendship apparently intensified.
Rukmani meantime got separated from her first husband and her relatives got her married to another man four years ago and they moved to Washermanpet, some five km away. This, the relatives thought, would help in keeping the two women friends away.
But that was not to be. They continued to meet, often at Malar's house. On Friday morning, Rukmani went to Malar's house after their husbands had left for work. Not finding Rukmani for a long time, her relatives started searching for her and finally found her in Malar's house.
A fierce row erupted, and relatives of both the women expressed their strong disapproval of the "physical relationship" between them.
But the two chose to stay together for the night, and the next morning they were found dead, in each other's arms.
Based on a complaint by Rukmani's elder sister Padmavathy, Sathangadu police have registered a case and further investigations are on.
Reacting to the incident, lawyer and activist Sudha Ramalingam said it was time Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (unnatural offence) was scrapped. "We have reached a stage where one has to accept relationships which are not termed normal. Everyone has the right, especially two consenting adults, to choose their way of life," she said.
All India Democratic Women's Association leader Vasuki said suicides are not a solution to any problem. "Same sex relationships are coming to the fore these days, and we do not have a coping mechanism in place," she told The Times of India.
Vasanthi Devi, former Chairperson, State Women's Commission, said, "In India, same sex relationships are not in any way accepted, and even talking about it is considered taboo. Since it is perceived to be unnatural and unacceptable, a lot of sensitivity is required in handling the issue. Sadly, counselling is virtually unknown in our society, be it for students or adults. If we had counsellors to guide, any number of tragedies can be avoided."