In June 2021, almost three years after the Supreme Court read down the repressive law that criminalised homosexual relations, the Madras High Court came out with another judgement on discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community.
It started with a lesbian couple from Madurai who escaped to Chennai and were taking shelter at an NGO. Their relationship was opposed by their parents, and thus they were forced to flee from their families. They were slowly able to arrange accommodation for themselves and were looking for jobs. While back home, their parents filled out missing complaints with the police, and since then the couple has been unsafe. There were police harassing the NGOs, and there were threats to the couple’s safety from the police and their own families. The couple then reached out to the court for their safety from police.
Before giving out a judgment, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh went through “psycho-education” around same-sex relationships, which he said would help him better understand the concept. Following his learning and sessions with Ms. Vidya Dinakaran, he also requested that she counsel the parents and submit a report to the court. This hearing on June 7th was a landmark judgment by Madras High Court, which talked about having guidelines for creating a safe environment for the LGBTQ community, to ensure that they are not harassed by the police and so much more. The court also directed the police to close any missing persons complaints if an investigation confirms that the complaint involves consenting adults from the LGBTQ community.
Further guidelines were also given to make provisions at anganwadis and short-stay homes for the shelter of transpersons and to organise awareness programmes. These awareness programmes could also be conducted for all stakeholders, which include police and prison authorities, judges, educational institutions, physical and mental health professionals, and health workers, both in public and private workplaces. This court expects the departments/authorities…to implement these guidelines…not for the sake of complying with a judicial fiat but to ensure that this society evolves and the LGBTQ community is not pushed out of the mainstream, “it said.
The court has directed the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to create a list of NGOs along with the contact details for LGBTQ community members to approach for safeguarding and protecting their rights. It also asked the Union government to ban any attempt to medically “cure” or change an individual’s sexual orientation and recommended action against medical professionals who claim to be able to “cure” homosexuality through dubious “conversion therapy.” The judge with Madras High Court directed the state government to prepare a consistent guide and prospective glossary with words and expressions that could be used to address the LGBTQ community in a dignified manner. During the hearing in December 2021, lawyer Manuraj Shunmugasundram submitted a list of 24 Tamil words with English translations and explanations as a proposal to the state government to use those words in the glossary.
It has been a landmark judgement by Madras High Court on the LGBTQ movement because the LGBTQ movement is not only about greater representation in public spaces but also about societies that should evolve to find ways of including different identities.