Published: 28th January 2020
Meet the gay couple that asked the Kerala High Court to legalise gay marriage
Sonu and Nikesh Pushkaran got married at the Guruvayoor temple in July 2018, two months before SC decriminalised Section 377
Eighteen months have passed since Sonu and Nikesh Pushkaran got married. This was in July 2018, two months before the Supreme Court decriminalised Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Nikesh clearly remembers how the duo secretly exchanged garlands and wedding rings at the Guruvayoor temple. He tells us how they took extra care to not get noticed. "Had the authorities noticed, they would have imprisoned us," he recalls.
After the Supreme Court verdict on September 6, 2018, this Kochi couple was the first in Kerala to openly come out. However, not many would know that Nikesh and Sonu are legally still single. "This happens everywhere. I cannot call Sonu my husband in any document. We cannot open a joint bank account or get medical insurance together. We do not enjoy any of the privileges that heterosexual married couples in this country enjoy," says Nikesh.
The couple has now moved the Kerala High Court, seeking legalisation of gay marriages - a move that has made them go viral on social media and has several youth and student groups cheering for them. "After coming out as a couple, we once tried to get our marriage registered," says Sonu. "However, we were told that there is no provision in India for a gay couple to register their marriage. Both of us were disheartened," he says. The Supreme Court ruling only says that 'consensual sexual acts between adults cannot be a crime'. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't say anything about gay marriage.
"Though the text of the Act (Special Marriage Act 1954) does not exclude homosexual unions from its ambit expressly, Section 4 and Schedules 2-4 to the Act carry a heterosexual undertone in its language as it shows marriage as an affair between a male and a female or between bride and bridegroom," reads the couple's petition. They tell us that the High Court admitted the case on January 27. "We really hope that the judgment turns out positive. It will help a lot of homosexual couples across the country," says Nikesh.
Love finds its way
Taking a walk down the memory lane, Nikesh tells us how the couple met through a dating app, two years back. "We were both looking for partners and were specific about our preferences. We met each other and instantly fell in love," he says, holding Sonu's hand. A few months later they were married.
The couple during their wedding
"It's only after the decriminalisation of Section 377 that we decided to come out and let the world know that we're together," says Sonu. "It was Nikesh's idea. So many of our gay friends were scared of taking the risk of being the first to come out. So one day, Nikesh asked me, why don't we lead the way," he recalls.
And that was a turning point. "We wanted society to change and are happy to play a part," says Nikesh. He also tells us that the people around them are not homophobic. "Our neighbours initially thought that we're roommates. But even after they got to know that we're a couple, they didn't bother us with stares, remarks or questions," he says.
Sonu's and Nikesh's student days were exactly the opposite. While Sonu says that he was depressed, self-loathing and introverted, Nikesh says that he had a lot of friends, both men and women. "I was in a relationship with a man during my college days, but I never told anyone. Even though I had a seemingly normal life, I had to pretend to be interested in women," says Nikesh.
Sonu works in an MNC, while Nikesh is an entrepreneur
Sonu, for a long time, believed that he will someday start getting attracted to women. "I always liked men and I thought that this was wrong. I thought that I had sinned and wanted to change. This could be the reason why I hardly spoke to anyone back then," he says. He also tells us how therapy and exposure to more people helped him accept himself. "It was a relief to know that there are more people like me," he says. "Later, I took my family too to my therapist, who explained to them that it was not wrong for me to be gay. They accepted it easily, probably because they love me a lot," he says.
Times have changed, definitely. Sonu tells us how his workplace encourages its employees to conduct pride parades and organise awareness events. "My manager had told me to report immediately if I come across anything homophobic. But luckily, everybody is sensitive and empathetic at my workplace," he says.
The couple also tells us how they're happy with the way that movies these days showcase gay relationships. "We are really looking forward to watching Ayushmann Khurrana's Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. Geethu Mohandas' Moothon too portrayed gay relationships well. This is a big change from homophobic and transphobic films like Chanthupottu, which came out in the past," says Nikesh