This article looks at the issues faced by queer women in India through a legal lens. It identifies four issues for discussion– privacy, live-in relationships, allegations of lesbianism in matrimonial disputes, and the pressure to enter heterosexual marriages. It engages in-depth with the first two while laying down the groundwork for the last two. This article asks whether the law in its current form, is aware of, and equipped to, address these issues. First, it finds that the Navtej Johar case, by permitting a right to same-sex sexual relations between adults in private, failed to understand the very nature of the privacy concern of queer women. Secondly, it critically analyses live-in relationship cases between queer women before and after the Navtej judgment to find that a lack of respect for the autonomy of women continues to characterise the disposal of these cases. It also finds that investigative illegalities and violations of the fundamental rights of privacy, dignity, and equality are visited upon these couples during the course of the case. Finally, this article provides legal and extra-legal solutions for addressing the problems identified here. It concludes by asking whether given the law’s limited success in delivering freedom to queer women, a narrow and measured engagement might be more profitable in the long run. It does not answer this question but raises it for future deliberation.
On the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of the landmark Navtej judgment in India, which decriminalized same sex sexual relations, Surabhi was invited to contribute an article to the NUJS Law Review. The review has periodically published special issues on the subject and 5 of their publications were cited in the Navtej judgment by the Supreme Court in 2018. The article 'The L world: Legal discourses on queer women' evaluated whether the judgment addresses the concerns of queer women in India.
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