One Year of Madras High Court Judgement

It’s been a year since the Madras High Court (S Sushma v. Commissioner of Police) in its judgement sent a loud and clear message against the various discriminations faced by the LGBTQIA+ community, pathologising queer lives and clearly laying out an agenda of inclusion. This came out three years after the Supreme Court decriminilased consensual sex between same gender individuals by striking down IPC 377. In his judgment, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court barred the dubious practise of “conversion therapy” in any form, medical, religious, or otherwise.

In the same judgement, the court laid down guidelines directing the state government to make provisions at Anganwadis and short-stay homes to offer shelter to transpeople. The directions also mention awareness programmes for all sections of society, including parents, judges, teachers, and prison officials. There was also a mention of changing school and college curricula, gender-neutral washrooms, and training health workers to accept gender non-conforming children without shaming.

This Madras High Court judgement is a huge landmark for the whole country and the LGBTQIA+ community, and yet, there are still cases of queer couples facing discrimination from families and sometimes police officials.

As per a report in Hindustan Times, Ramya and her partner, S Nidhi, ran away from their homes, and Ramya’s family filed a missing person’s complaint at the local police station. The Madras High Court explicitly states in the guidelines that police are not to harass the community because their parents have filed “missing complaints.”Nonetheless, the family was able to file a missing company report and continued to harass the two queer individuals, who also received death threats from their family.

Ramya said earlier this year when the family separated them, a relative took her to see a counsellor at the government hospital, where the doctor (thankfully) said Ramya doesn’t have any “mental problems” as the relative says. Even after this, Ramya had to face physical violence from the family and got the police officials involved, who only made it worse.

This situation is not very different in the neighbouring state of Kerala, where a lesbian couple, Adhila Nassrin and Fathima Noora, are being harassed by their families, but there, thankfully, the Kerala High Court gave a judgement in favour of the queer couple. Adhila stated on social media that her partner, Fathima Noora, was taken by force by her parents and they were going to put her through “conversion therapy”. It was the social media uproar that got the focus of the mainstream media on the case where the police have not done anything to bring Fathima Noora back. Even after they are reunited, they still continue to live in fear of their family, educational institutions, and employment.

Even post the court rulings in various states that uphold the Madras high Court judgement and are willing to support the queer couples’ decision to live together, life hasn’t changed for a lot of the couples. The police still beat them and ask intrusive questions. It is similar when queer individuals step out looking for a job or looking to rent a house if they reveal their identity.

Gopi Shankar, an Intersex rights activist from Madurai says, “The court has granted us constitutional rights but as a statutory authority myself I can say that it’s difficult to implement these changes on the ground without political will.”