CHANDIGARH— When Manjit Sandhu, a jail warden in the Punjab Police married her girlfriend Seerat, a former prisoner under her charge, in July 2017, homosexuality was still a punishable offence in India.
That changed last year in September 2018, when the Indian Supreme Court decriminalised gay sex. Now Manjit and Seerat want to travel abroad for a much-delayed honeymoon to Canada — only to find that Indian officialdom is not ready to accord LGBTQ couples many of the rights that heteronormative citizens take for granted.
A honeymoon might seem like an indulgence — which it isn’t — but it offers a window into why LGBTQ activists are determined to build on their victory from last year.
A long established history of Punjabis like the Sandhus seeking to travel abroad in search of work has resulted in a deep-rooted suspicion amongst visa authorities.
While Manjit is 48 years old and has a government job, making her less of an immigration threat in the eyes of visa authorities, Seerat is only 22, with few assets of her own.
“It is very difficult to get a visa for Seerat as she is 22 years and does not have a job,” Manjit said. “Also, we do not have much property on our name. All we want to travel to Canada for a week but can’t.”
For heterosexual couples in India, it is often easier to get a visa if they can prove they are married. But India does not recognise gay marriage.
“The passport officials have asked to submit our marriage registration certificate to include my name in her passport,” Manjit said. “But the marriage office at Jalandhar has refused to register our marriage.”
Love and paperwork
The problem with Seerat and Manjit’s paperwork goes much beyond just her passport. As a government employee, Manjit is entitled to include her spouse on her life and health insurance policies and as a nominee on her pension...