The Madras High Court on Monday said that continuous efforts need to be made tackle prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community. However, the court appreciated the efforts taken by the Tamil Nadu government to prevent the harassment of members of the community, Bar and Bench reported.

The court was hearing a petition filed by a lesbian couple seeking protection against harassment from the police and their families. In their plea filed in June, the couple had accused the police of asking harassing questions while investigating a missing person’s report filed by the parents of the one of the woman.

“We are dealing with a situation where the deeply embedded prejudice has to be effaced and therefore, it requires continuous effort on the part of all the stakeholders,” Justice N Anand Venkatesh observed during Monday’s hearing on the matter.

In earlier hearings of the case, the High Court had suggested a slew of measures, including changes to the laws and the curricula of educational institutions, to remove prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community.

Venkatesh himself had undergone an educational session with a psychologist to understand same-sex relationships better. In an interim order passed earlier, the judge had referred to the petitioners, Vidya Dinakaran and Trinetra, as his “gurus” (teachers), for “pulling him out of darkness”.

On Monday, the Tamil Nadu government told the court it has issued directions to conduct sensitisation programmes to train police officials about matters related to the LGBTQIA+ community.

The government also said that the director-general of Tamil Nadu Police has sent a letter to the state home department recommending an amendment in the Police Conduct Rules to add a clause aimed at preventing the harassment of LGBTQIA+ persons.

The government added that it was planning to draft a policy meant for the welfare of transgender persons. The High Court also recorded that the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy has been conducting sensitisation programmes on a regular basis for judges.

“This court appreciates the seriousness with which the state government has taken up the issue seriously and this court also expects that a report will be filed during the next date of hearing explaining the various steps taken by the state government in this regard,” the judge said.

On media coverage

The additional advocate general, appearing for the state government, said that a newspaper will conduct a seminar to develop a “queer friendly future”. The High Court had earlier criticised the media for its reporting on same-sex couples.

The additional advocate general submitted that media house were preparing style guides specifying words and expressions to be used for reporting about the LGBTQIA+ community.

“...Once such a style guide is finalised, the same can be made use by everyone who is involved in news reporting and this will ensure that the persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community are addressed with due respect and without usage of any demeaning words,” the High Court said, according to Live Law.

Centre’s submission

Meanwhile, the central government told the High Court that it has allocated money to set up shelter homes for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Employment also said that it was formulating a plan to provide additional help under the Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise scheme.

“It was also brought to the notice of this Court that identity cards will be issued to transgender persons and the process is under way,” the High Court said.

Conversion therapy

The counsel appearing for the National Medical Commission told the judge that it has received the High Court’s earlier order to remove aspects in medical courses about “cures” to change a person’s sexual orientation.

The counsel, however, submitted that that the commission would need more time to implement the order as it was busy with conducting the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test and other medical examinations.

In its August order, the court had observed that the aim for treating patients cannot be to “cure” their gender identity or sexuality. The court was referring to a prescription given by a psychiatrist to a gay man in which the doctor had prescribed him two medicines that were anti-depressants and erectile dysfunction drugs.

“This lack of knowledge on the part of the concerned psychiatrist is directly attributable to the course that was undergone by him and which is yet to be revamped and brought up to date,” the High Court the said.

It had added: “Queerphobia is being reaffirmed as legitimate throughout the education of a doctor who might go on to become a psychiatrist or any physician who might be approached by a person from the community.”