Wonder the meaning of ‘Freedom’? One can broadly infer the term as a situation allowing an individual to do what he/she likes or the rights they can legally enjoy.
Many lives around us are legally entitled to all the rights but are forced to confine themselves to the social boundaries set by mainstream society.
Lesbian lovers Adhila Nassrin and Fathima Noora were recently in the spotlight after breaking the shackles of all such social inhibitions and attaining the freedom to live a life of their choice.
When their family and society staunchly opposed their lesbian relationship and tried to separate them forcefully, the lesbian couple chose to wage a legal battle for their rights and won the freedom they yearned for.
In a landmark judgment, the Kerala High Court allowed the lesbian couple to reunite on May 31, 2022. The court issued the order on a habeas corpus petition filed by Adhila, seeking directions to the police to produce her partner, who had been forcefully taken away by the latter’s parents from her house.
Adhila fell in love with Noora while studying in Class 12 in Saudi Arabia. Both flew back to India and completed their degree studies here.
During the Covid period, Noorah’s parents took her to Saudi, and they came to know about their daughter's relationship.
Both girls' families opposed the relationship tooth and nail and tortured them mentally and physically. They even tried to find grooms for the lovers.
None of the hardships had any effect on their unconditional love. They decided to live together somewhere else after completing their studies.
Both succeeded in finding a job in Chennai. But their families were not ready to accept the relationship. Finally, the lovers fled their homes on May 19 and took shelter in a center being run for the welfare of the LGBTQIA+.
The cops interfered when their families came there, too, and created a ruckus.
Adhila’s relatives then took both the girls to their house at Muppathadam, Aluva. However, Noora's relatives soon reached there and took her along with them by force. Following this,
Adhila moved the High Court and obtained a favourable verdict. It's 75 days since the court allowed the lesbian couple to live together.
They live in Chennai and are employed by the same company. During the intervals amid their tight schedules with the IT company, Adhila and Noora reveal all about that in a free-flowing interview with ‘Manorama Online.'
While the Constitution guarantees the freedom to live with those we love, society won’t allow individuals to lead such a life. How did you tide over the hurdle?
Adhila: Nothing is above the Indian constitution. We can’t find self-satisfaction unless we live for ourselves.
Freedom will be a mirage in that case. ‘Freedom’ is not something that gets confined to books alone, nor is it just sharing posters on Independence Day.
The biggest question one faces will be whether they can attain that. For that, we alone should find an answer. That awareness gave us the courage to move forward with our life, opposing society and our families.
Did you have faith in the police and the State when you decided to live together?
Noora: Yes, we had faith in the police and the government. That’s why we decided to move forward. But we didn’t get any support from the police.
Often, they took our words as a joke and handled the whole issue too lightly. They took a bad approach when we went to submit a complaint. But we haven’t lost our faith in the polity.
Adhila: The police approach was to stand with the families and discourage us from lodging a case against them. That's why the issue, which could have been resolved in the police station itself, finally reached the court.
It was the police officials themselves who suggested the filing of a habeas corpus petition before the court. That’s how we approached a lawyer and filed the petition.
Ever felt you faced this much crisis since you are a woman, more than the fact that you are a lesbian?
Adhila: Yes, I don't think we won't be having any issues if we were men. But we had to suffer much more difficulties being women.
Our relatives told us numerous times that we won’t be able to live without men to protect us. They used to ask how long two girls could live together without the help of others.
We retorted that we have no issue with that and won't care what society or others think. We didn't attempt to hurt or injure anyone? If the girls have one or more relationships, then society views them as 'bad .'In the eyes of such people, women are only needed to give birth to young ones.
Noora: Because we are girls, we couldn't even go out of our houses without the permission of our parents. This even though ours were forward-looking families.
There was absolute freedom for the male members of our family, and they enjoyed all the privileges. During the three years of our degree course, we were not allowed to meet even once.
I had studied in a college in Kozhikode and Adhila in Ernakulam. We were not allowed to speak to each other on the phone at our home. We used to make the calls in colleges, that too once in a while.
Are you enjoying freedom now?
Noora: Definitely. We are happy now. We can live according to our likes.
Adhila: Knew very well that we could be independent only if we had jobs. That’s why we decided to live together after securing a job once we got a degree. Earning oneself is essential in securing our independence.
How do you define freedom in your relationship and how do you arrive at decisions?
Adhila: Freedom is not something to be granted. There needs to be the space to enjoy what is naturally available. Individually, both of us have it.
We can do what we feel is right. I don’t question Noora. She does something that she feels is right. That’s all. I also do the same. There haven’t been any issues so far. But when decisions go wrong, we point out to each other and accept the same.
Noora: It’s not that all decisions go right.
Adhila: Noora can sometimes foresee that certain decisions could go wrong. The actions that I have taken without heeding her advice have always gone wrong. We have taken decisions after mutual consultations. We have the freedom for that.
Though we are possessive, we don’t infringe on the freedom of each other. In normal husband-wife relations, the women usually meet the requirements of the men. But in a same-sex relationship, partners can better understand each other. We are sharing responsibilities, including the work at home.
Since the details about the case became public after the media published them, society identifies both of you. Has this come in the way of you enjoying your independence?
Noora: I haven't felt so. Systems, including in the office, are LGBTQ+ friendly.
We get a lot of support. Since revealing our identity, we get preference in several things. People are more supportive than we expected.
Adhila: We took the flat on rent without concealing we are partners. We haven't felt that being recognised in public is a hindrance to enjoying our freedom. Isn’t it a matter of happiness?
What is your opinion about the current situation in the country?
Adhila: Society has to change a lot to recognise people like us though we are celebrating the 75th year of Independence.
Several people are advising us on social media and outside even now. We face a lot of cyberbullying too. The main reason is the absence of sex education, among others.
There is a ban on using the word 'sex' in our homes. We hope things will change.
Currently, our decision is to continue in India. However, if we get opportunities to go abroad, we will think about that.
We can’t legally get married in India at present. If we get foreign citizenship, we will be able to do that. We haven't enquired so far which country is most friendly. We will be happy if such an environment evolves in India.
What are your expectations about India in the next 25 years?
Adhila: We are optimistic. My sister studying in Std VII is aware of our relationship. For her, I am a normal girl. I am happy witnessing such an outlook.
We expect a lot of changes, seeing an upcoming generation that recognises people like us in the world. We have trust in the future generation. Currently, sex education has been included in the syllabus to an extent. It should get more space.
There should be initiatives to give more awareness to the elders in this regard. We desire to initiate such steps on our own also.
Do your families support you now?
Adhila: After the court verdict, though they tried to contact us, we didn’t allow it. The psychological torment that we faced from our families is immense. We have decided to live together from now on. Yes, with freedom.