In 2013, Bengali Muslim woman Sanjida traveled to the small town of Pirojpur to continue her studies when she met Puja, the youngest daughter of the man from whom she was renting a room. “She was wearing an olive green blouse and petticoat. The back of the blouse had two strings that were hanging loose. At that instant, I fell in love with her,” Sanjida, now 20, told the BBC. Puja reciprocated the feelings and the two women eloped at a temple three months later, exchanging garlands of flowers — an old Hindu marriage tradition known as Brahmo — before hitting the road to hide from their conservative families.
Puja’s father told local police that his daughter was abducted, and a search ensued. Sanjida was arrested and Puja was forced to return to her family while her partner faces charges and a prison sentence. “Because there is no precedent of such a case of two women — let alone from Hindu-Muslim background — running away together and claiming that they have married, the police and even Sanjida’s lawyers didn’t know at first how to deal with it,” Farida Begum, director of the Bondhu Social Welfare Society, told the BBC.
“I didn’t know that what I felt was called being a lesbian,” Sanjida said. “I had not heard the word until gay rights groups helped me in prison.” Their romance stalled when Puja was married off to a policeman in her town, but Sanjida continues to fight for LGBTQ rights in Bangladesh while awaiting her trial’s end.
Read the full story at the BBC.