The Madras High Court issued far-reaching guidelines aimed at creating a safe environment for LGBTQIA+ people on Monday. It emphasized that sexual autonomy and gender identity is an essential aspect of the right to privacy. The guidelines range from prohibiting attempts to “medically cure” LGBTQIA+ people to seeking changes in school and university curricula and recommending awareness programs for judicial officers, police, and prison guards. Ensuring that they are not harassed by the police during investigations into missing allegations submitted by their parents, in a landmark ruling on LGBTQIA+ rights.
What was this judgment made in relation to?
The decision was made by the Madras High Court at a hearing in a case involving a lesbian couple from Madurai who had eloped and migrated to Chennai. Their parents, who were opposed to it, filed missing person reports, and the police tracked down and investigated the pair as a result.
Police had allegedly harassed an activist and another member of the LGBTQIA+ community for providing shelter to the couple. Following this, the two women petitioned the Madras High Court for an order to cease police harassment and to safeguard them from any harm or risk posed by their parents to their safety and security.
Madras High Court judge undergoes psycho-educative sessions
In April, Justice Anand Venkatesh's High Court bench requested education from a psychologist and members of the LGBTQIA+ community in order to better understand their challenges and make an informed decision. The Madras High Court ordered the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to publish a list of NGOs with contact information for LGBTQIA+ people to contact for protection.
To overcome his "preconceived views," the judge agreed to participate in psycho-educational sessions with LGBTQIA+ experts. The petitioners' parents were also ordered to see a professional counselor for psychological counseling.
Dr. Vidya Dinkaran, a professional psychologist, met with Justice Anand Venkatesh. The psychologist's report on the judge's interaction is included in the verdict in its entirety.
According to the report, the judge finally realized his own "flawed beliefs" after meeting with the petitioners.
"Ignorance is no justification for normalizing any form of discrimination," Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court declared in a judgment that provided a series of rules to ensure that LGBTQIA+ people in consensual relationships are protected from police harassment.
Guidelines to the Government
The Madra High Court has directed the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) to enlist Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), particularly community-based organizations, with sufficient expertise in dealing with LGBTQIA+ matters.
The Madras High Court also ordered the Union government to prohibit any medical effort to "cure" or convert the sexual orientation of LGBTIQA+ people to heterosexuality or the gender identification of transgender people to cisgender. The High Court has ordered authorities to take action against anyone who claims to be involved in conversion therapy in any form or style, including revoking their license to operate.
The court went on to say that government agencies should put the rules in place the guidelines "in letter and spirit not for the sake of complying with a judicial fiat but to ensure that this society evolves, and the LGBTQIA+ community is not pushed out of the mainstream of the society."
The competent government shall take effective actions to carry out the provisions of Chapter VI of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 and Rule 10 of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 in respect to transgender people.
Police and prison authorities
According to the Madras High Court, police and prison officials, district and state legal service officials, judicial officials, physical and mental health professionals, education institutions, health workers, public or private institutions, as well as parents of LGBTQIA+ people should participate in sensitization programs.
At regular intervals, programs on things to do to safeguard and prevent offenses against the LGBTQIA+ community should be held. Educate the LGBTQIA+ community on their legal rights on a regular basis.
NGO outreach activities should be done with community cooperation to bring to the attention of law enforcement officials first-hand difficulties and to train them in giving appropriate help. Ensure that transgender and gender-nonconforming inmates are housed apart from cis-men inmates to prevent sexual assaults on the former by the latter.
Sensitization of students
The court's guidelines include the use of Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) in schools to educate parents about issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community and gender nonconforming students.
- Necessary policy changes to include LGBTQIA+ students in all aspects of school and college life.
- The use of Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) in schools to educate parents about issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community and gender non-conforming students
Policies and resources should be amended as needed to incorporate students from the LGBTQIA+ community in all aspects of school and college life. The following ideas were made in this regard:
- Ensure that gender-neutral restrooms are available for gender-nonconforming students.
- Transgender students can have their names and genders changed on their academic records.
- Inclusion of a transgender gender column alongside the M and F gender columns in admissions applications, competitive entrance tests, and other forms.
- Appointment of LGBTQIA+ inclusive counselors to assist workers and students with any grievances they may have and to provide effective solutions.
The Madras High Court has ordered that appropriate improvements be made to existing short-stay houses, Anganwadi shelters, and “Garima Greh” (transgender shelter homes) to accommodate any and all LGBTQIA+ community members who seek refuge and/or housing. The Court has given the Union government 12 weeks to make necessary infrastructure arrangements.
Conduct awareness programs for judicial officers at all levels, in collaboration with enlisted NGOs and community support, and make suggestions/recommendations to ensure that LGBTQIA+ people are not discriminated against.