Urmila Srivastava and Leela Namdeo were two policewomen from the Madhya Pradesh police force who married each other in 1987. Their marriage was the first documented same-sex marriage in India. The two women, following a Gandharva ritual, garlanded each other in the presence of a few close friends and family in a small ceremony.
On 24th February, 1988, pictures from their marriage made front page news under the headline “Lesbian Cops”. A fellow cadet had shown their wedding photos to their supervising officer, and he proceeded to take action against them. The two women were dismissed from service after being starved, threated and tortured. The LGBTQIA+ movement at the time were galvanised by the couple’s act of bravery. However, many outside the movement believed that the two had “become” lesbians because of being “westernised”. Urmila and Leela, however, did not identify with the word ‘lesbian.’ They took their dismissal to court primarily in the fear that their future incomes were now under threat.
Condemned by naysayers and supported behind by the LGBTQIA+ community, theirs was an extraordinary story. However, both women simply wanted to be with each other, marriage seemed like the most obvious next step. The various dynamics in a story such as theirs has been analysed in Maya Sharma’s book “Loving Women.'