Indian transgender couple tie knot in landmark ‘rainbow wedding’

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Bride and groom, who both underwent sex reassignment, comes as lower house of parliament votes to enshrine transgender rights

An Indian transgender couple who both underwent sex re-assignment have tied the knot in a traditional Bengali ceremony, in what is believed to be the states first rainbow wedding.

Surrounded by family and friends, the bride, Tista Das, 38, and groom, Dipan Chakravarthy, 40, took part in rituals in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state.

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We are feeling awesome actually. We are out of the gender box and we love to be an exception and we think this is a strong bond between us, Tista Das said.

Its a bond of love. Its a bond of liberty also, she said. And this is the solidarity of our souls.

Das said she battled for a long time to achieve her identity as a woman, as a human being, adding: I was not even considered as a human being in this brutal society.

A transgender friend of the couple, Anurag Maitrayee, said the ceremony was a beautiful, emotional union of two hearts and two souls.

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Despite all the oddities and all the atrocities, I have seen how Tista and her journey from a man into a woman and her relation, emotion, love with a person with a soul whose journey is from a woman to a man, Maitrayee said.

Tista Das (L) and groom Dipan Chakrabarty (R) perform a wedding ritual during a ceremony in Kolkata, India. Photograph: Piyal Adhikary/EPA

Official estimates for Indias transgender population are not known but they are thought to number several million. They often live on the fringes of Indian society, with many forced into prostitution, begging or menial jobs.

Over the centuries transgender people have assumed different roles in society, from royal courtesans to participants in birth ceremonies and other auspicious occasions. They have waged a lengthy battle to protect their rights and end discrimination.

Indias supreme court recognised them as a third gender in a historic 2014 ruling. On Tuesday, Indias lower house passed a transgender bill to enshrine the rights of transgender people in law. The bill is being discussed in the upper house.

But the community as well as human rights activists have raised concerns that the bills language is unclear over whether it allows transgender people to self-identify.

The Transgender Persons Bill should be a remarkable achievement for a long-persecuted community, but the current draft fails on the fundamental right to self-identify, Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said last month.

Its crucial that the law be in line with the supreme courts historic ruling on transgender rights.

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