The Madras High Court has suggested a slew of measures, including legislations and changes in curricula of educational institutions, to remove prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community, Bar and Bench reported on Monday.
A single judge bench of Justice Anand Venkatesh ordered strict action against those found to be indulging in attempts to “cure or change” the sexual orientation by physical and mental health professionals. Venkatesh was hearing a petition filed by a lesbian couple seeking protection from police harassment and their families, who were against their relationship.
“I strongly feel that the change must take place at a societal level and when it is complemented by a law there will be a remarkable change in the outlook of the society by recognising same-sex relationships”, Venkatesh said in his judgement, according to Live Law. He observed that legislative changes were needed to eradicate social discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community to ensure their life and dignity.
However, Venkatesh added, that till the time such legislations are implemented, the community cannot be “left in a vulnerable atmosphere”, and thus listed a number of guidelines for various institutions, including the judiciary and police.
The court ordered police to close missing complaints, if it was found that they involve consenting adults belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community. The prison authorities have been asked to house transgender and gender-nonconforming prisoners are housed separately from cis-men prisoners to eliminate chances of sexual assault by the latter, Bar and Bench reported.
As for educational institutions, the court directed schools to use parent teachers’ association meetings to sensitise parents on LGBTQIA+ community and gender nonconforming students. It also asked school authorities to ensure availability of gender-neutral restrooms and change of name and gender on academic records for transgender persons.
In suggestions for the judiciary itself, the court directed that awareness programmes should be held for judicial officers with non-governmental organisations at all levels to provide suggestions and recommendations to ensure non-discrimination of persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Notably, Justice Venkatesh himself underwent an educational session with a psychologist to understand same-sex relationships better, while hearing the case. In his order, the judge referred to the petitioners, Vidya Dinakaran and Trinetra, as his “gurus” (teachers), for “pulling him out of darkness”, Live Law reported.
“Unlike regular litigations, the present case has given this court, not only an opportunity but also a vested responsibility to weigh the cause for inclusivity and justice against discrimination by heretofore social understanding of morality and notions of tradition,” Venkatesh said in his judgement.