Two women in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal killed themselves on Saturday, and it appears that the stigma around their relationship and the fear of separation may have pushed them to suicide. While there is no suicide note, it is believed that Jothi (23) and Priya (20) may have been in a romantic relationship.
Jothi and Priya used to work together at a loom in Periyamanali until a few months ago. But they were fired after the owner of the loom disapproved of their friendship, according to the police.
Jothi was married and separated from her husband and lived with her grandmother. She also has a two-year-old child from her marriage, and had joined the loom unit after she separated from her husband. Priya lived with her family in Kottapalayam and had been working in the loom unit for around a year.
“A few months ago, the women were both fired from the loom unit after the owner disapproved of their friendship,” a police officer from Elachipalayam told TNM, “After rumours started circulating about their bond, Priya’s family advised her to not maintain contact with Jothi. They had also allegedly discouraged the friendship because of the taboos around a married woman being separated from her husband.”
In order to silence these rumours circulating in the village, Priya’s family had arranged for her to get married to a man in Rasipuram, on 27 May, the police added.
On Saturday, Priya visited Jothi at her house around 11 am. Around 3 pm, Priya’s brother went to check on her and saw the two women dead inside the house. He then alerted the police about the suicides in the house. “There was no suicide note. We recovered the bodies and sent them for autopsy to the government hospital in Tiruchengode. We have also registered an FIR under section 174 of the CrPC and are investigating,” the officer said.
It is believed that the women were upset and feared separation, which led them to suicide, the police said.
Speaking to TNM about the issue, Moulee, a queer activist said that the way families treat these relationships is a little conservative. "Especially when it involves women, the reaction from the families is more dangerous. When people don't have access to support systems or resources to seek help from, they are left on their own to defend themselves," he explained.
Adding that fixing a marriage to get the queer person out of their relationship pushes the queer person to take immediate decisions, Moulee said, "People take time to come to terms with their gender identity and sexuality, especially when their surrounding is heteronormative. Queer people must be comfortable enough to reach out to authorities for help."
The police force in the state also lacks awareness on how to sensitively deal with issues like this, Moulee added. "A lot of times the police also tries to convince queer persons and send them along with their families. I think we need anti-discrimination policies so that people are confident that even if something happens to them, there are government guidelines to protect them."
(This article was first published on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)