An Indian lesbian couple who married in the UK have been told they must return to their home country, where their relationship will not be recognised and they could face prison.
Now the couple, identified only as CB and SB, plan to appeal their decision at the Supreme Court.
It is believed to be the first time a same-sex couple has used their relationship status in a bid to be granted permission to stay in the UK, where they have been living legally since 2007.
They fear imprisonment in their home state, which in 2013 re-enacted its Sodomy law with a maximum life sentence for “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”.
Despite these fears, judges at the court of appeal rejected their application to remain in Britain and agreed with the Home Office’s decision to deport them.
The couple tried to extend their leave to remain in the UK on the grounds of human rights laws protecting their right to a family life of their choosing – they fear if they go back to the south Asian country they will be made to find a husband.
But the court ruled sending them home would not amount to a violation of these rights and said there was a lack of evidence the couple would suffer any injustice on their return.
It ruled: “The situation in India for lesbians is improving, in part due to the visible public debate as to the rights of same-sex couples”.
They entered the UK in 2007 as friends before embarking on a relationship and entering a civil partnership in Scotland in 2008. They then converted this into marriage in 2015. Since coming to the UK, they have both graduated with degrees and found jobs.
One of the two women told the Guardian: “My family do not know that I am a lesbian or that I am married. If I return home they will treat me as a single woman and start looking for a suitable husband for me.
“I won’t have any legal protection for who I am because my marriage will not be recognised in India. In India we will both have to hide who we are. In the UK we enjoy our family life together.
“My wife means the world to me, we are well integrated into UK culture and can live openly as a married couple here. At the end of the day all we want is to live somewhere where our marriage is recognised as having the same legal status as a heterosexual marriage.”