THE Madras High Court Monday issued a slew of directions to allow the LGBTQIA+ community to lead a safe and secure life.
The LGBTQIA+ community could not be left to feel vulnerable with no guarantee for their protection and safety, a single-judge bench of Justice N.Anand Venkatesh said, while issuing the directions which would be operative till the legislature came up with relevant enactments.
The directions are:
- The police, on receipt of any complaint regarding girl/woman/man missing cases which upon enquiry/investigation is found to involve consenting adults belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, shall upon receipt of their statements, close the complaint without subjecting them to any harassment.
- The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MSJE), has to enlist Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) including community-based groups which have sufficient expertise in handling the issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Any person who faces an issue for the reason of their belongingness to the LGBTQIA+ community may approach any of the enlisted NGOs for safeguarding and protecting their rights.
- The concerned NGO in consultation with the MSJE, shall maintain confidential records of such persons who approach the enlisted NGOs and the aggregate data shall be provided to the concerned Ministry bi-annually
- Such problems shall be addressed with the best-suited method depending on the facts and circumstances of each case be it counselling, monetary support, legal assistance with the support of District Legal Services Authority, or to co-ordinate with law enforcement agencies about offenses committed against any persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community.
- With specificity of issue of accommodation, suitable changes are to be made in existing short stay homes, Anganwadi shelters, and “garima greh” (shelter home for transgender persons, the purpose of which is to provide shelter to transgender persons, with basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and recreational facilities. Besides, it will provide support for capacitybuilding/skill development of persons in the community, which will enable them to lead a life of dignity and respect) to accommodate any and every member of the LGBTQIA+ community, who require shelters and/or homes. The MSJE shall make adequate infrastructural arrangements in this regard, within a period of 12 weeks.
- Such other measures that are needed for eliminating prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community, and channelizing them back into the mainstream shall also be taken up. The Union and State Governments respectively, in consultation with such other Ministries and/or Departments shall endeavour to device such measures and policies.
In addition, the court directed the police department to hold programs at regular intervals on steps to be taken for protection from and prevention of offences against the LGBTQIA+ community. Conduct sensitization about legal rights of LGBTQIA+ community at regular intervals. Tamil Nadu state judicial academy to conduct awareness programmes for Judicial Officers at all levels in coordination with the enlisted NGOs and community support and to provide suggestions/ recommendations to ensure non-discrimination of persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community.
The court also directed to prohibit any attempts to medically “cure” or change the sexual orientation of LGBTIQA+ people to heterosexual or the gender identity of transgender people to cisgender. It asked the police to take action against the concerned professional involving themselves in any form or method of conversion “therapy”, including withdrawal of license to practice.
The education department directed to bring effective change in curricula of Schools and Universities to educate students on understanding the LGBTQIA+ Community.
The court said since regular monitoring and follow-up would be required with the various concerned departments to ensure that the directions issued by the court are executed and enforced, it would keep the petition pending and issue a mandamus from time to time after hearing the parties concerned.
Earlier, Justice Venkatesh had referred the petitioners and their parents to a counsellor who specialises in working with LGBTQI+ individuals. He asked Vidya Dinakaran, M.Sc. Counselling Psychology, to send a report to the court in a sealed cover preferably on or before 26.04.2021.
This move, Justice Venkatesh said, had become very vital since the court was moving into “unchartered waters”, and a report from a specialist would provide support to the court to move forward in this case.
The petitioners and their parents had accepted the request of the court for counselling, which was to have taken place during the third week of April 2021.
The court also interacted with the petitioners in-camera, who submitted that they had known each other for the last two years and both of them in unison stated that their friendship blossomed into love and they were very clear that they would be partners for life. “The petitioners did not mince any words and there was so much of clarity in what they wanted to convey.”
It also directed the closure of the missing persons complaint lodged by the parents.