Indian court orders investigation into forced marriage case involving victimized transgender woman

When India ratified the United Nations’ Forced Marriage Convention in 2015, one victim of sexual violence committed by her husband was awarded $2,000 in compensation for her act of resistance. Within a year, that sum had doubled. Now, India’s Supreme Court has ordered police in India’s capital city to immediately launch a fresh probe into the case of 27-year-old transgender woman Laxmi Thakur, who was drugged and raped by her husband’s family after she refused to agree to their plan to force her into marriage. Her case has become a rallying point for activists across India seeking to change laws that criminalize unmarried woman who refuse to enter into abusive or illegal marriages. Though the problem is widespread in India, Laxmi’s ordeal was especially shocking because it occurred in the city of Noida, a growing hub for new-age investors which is home to the massive Indian IT hub of Gurgaon. The Noida police then launched an extensive investigation and finally last week the Delhi government seized Thakur’s husband’s house and took away his identity documents, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

“No one will bring me back. It is up to God,” Laxmi said at her house, where all rooms, including her bedroom, were occupied by people — including a Chinese doctor — who came to wash her feet and give her blood transfusions. She said her husband’s family had seized her property and requested the government to release it as collateral, which she is not entitled to. The government is expected to give her about $7,800 in a couple of months but will not forgive the debt because she has not divorced her husband. “I fear for my life. The police need to recover my property and then file a chargesheet. The harassment cannot stop,” she said. Her struggle became a nationwide cause after her case was mentioned in the news. Activists on social media have rallied to her support, calling for improved laws on forced marriage and tighter legislation covering the settlements women reached under duress. The Supreme Court ruled that any woman who marries under duress will be protected by law, if she so chooses, bringing India closer to becoming a convention signatory that does not allow an unmarried woman to consent to marriage.

Forced marriage violates basic human rights, but this woman has defied India’s laws and pushed forward the fight for change. She deserves help. — Gautam Adani (@admanipul) October 10, 2018

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old lesbian in Rajasthan was locked in a room for over a month after she refused to wed a man, leading to the birth of a child. Her husband managed to obtain a divorce from the court, though it remains unclear if he will now have to refund the dowry demanded by her family. A federal court justice says the country is still facing an urgent need to try cases of human trafficking and forced marriage.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.


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