KATHMANDU, Sept 8: They say they cannot live without each other. And they understand that their union is going to cost them much pain. However, Rajani Shahi, 29, and Prem Kumari Nepali, 25, plead not to be parted. The case of this lesbian couple is a little complicated.
Rajani, who comes from a Kathmandu family, was married off when she was 18 and has a 9-year-old daughter.
While her family now believes that counseling and the services of a faith healer can work miracles to bring her back to a ´normal´ life, Rajani rejects any such treated outright.
“It is not a disease or a mental problem. Or else I would have became okay after you people kept me in a mental ward for months,” Rajani told her family during a hearing at the National Women´s Commission Friday in the presence of media persons and human rights activists.
According to her, she was never comfortable talking about her sexual orientation though she has felt the way she feels since a long time back and her marriage was a result of submission to her situation in society.
“I wish I could take my daughter with me and I assure you about her happy upbringing, but I cannot continue to be the wife of a man. I have been telling this same thing for the last two and half years,” she said.
According to Rajani´s mother, everything was fine until Prem Kumari, a tenant at Rajni´s house at Soyambhu, entered the picture. “She [Rajani] would have become normal by now had she submitted to the treatment methods of the faith healer. He said this is a somewhat serious case as the ´culprit´ has affected her profoundly,” she told Republica.
Following her relationship with Prem Kumari, Rajani has already filed for divorce from her husband. Her extremely worried family then began to seek various treatments to wean her away from her newfound love. In course of trying to ´correct´ their daughter, they even resorted to intense physical and verbal abuse, Rajani alleges.
“However, I don´t expect things to change as this is not a matter of choice for me,” she asserts.
Until recently, Rajani was under the protection of WOREC, the women´s rehabilitation center, as her family, desperate to get her ´back´, could have used force.
Another organization, Maiti Nepal, has lent her its support and for this both the organizations have come under threat, they state.
“Our office has been closed for a few weeks due to a threat from the family,” a staffer at Mitini Nepal said.
Rajani has now been sent to a state-run shelter at Banepa for counseling after a joint team of the women´s commission, the human rights commission, human right activists and Rajani´s family finally decided to settle the matter that way for now.
Rajani Shahi (right) with her partner in Kathmandu in this recent photo. (Photo:Anjali Subedi)
Meanwhile, Prem Kumari has been left under the protection of Maiti Nepal.
“As same-sex marriage is yet to be legalized and, more importantly, socially accepted in the country, such couples as well as their families are bound to face this kind of situation, and they become easy targets for the conventional-minded,” commented advocate and human rights activist Meera Dhungana.
“In Rajani´s case, her individual freedom and human rights have to be protected while coming up with the most viable option for raising her daughter,” she said.