Madras HC directs Centre to protect LGBTQIA+ community until enactment of a law

Court wants NGOs to be roped in to provide legal assistance, monetary support, food and shelter

June 08, 2021 03:30 am | Updated 11:18 am IST - CHENNAI

Empathising with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and such others’ (LGBTQIA+) community, the Madras High Court on Monday directed the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to enlist non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that could provide counselling, monetary support, legal assistance and protection to them until a law could be enacted to protect them.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh ordered that the Ministry upload the details of the NGOs along with their address, contact details and services provided by them on its website within eight weeks and revise the information periodically. Any person who faces an issue because he/she belongs to the LGBTQIA+ community could approach any of the enlisted NGOs for safeguarding their rights, the judge said.

It was also ordered that the NGOs, in consultation with the Ministry, should maintain confidential records of such persons who approached them and the aggregate data be submitted to the Ministry bi-annually. Making it clear that the victims should be provided need-based relief, the court said the NGOs should also coordinate with the police with respect to offences committed against them.

The court further ordered that appropriate changes be made to the existing government short stay homes, anganwadi shelters, Garima Greh (shelter home for transgender persons) for providing accommodation, food, medical care and recreational facilities to the LGBTQIA+ community people in need of such assistance. The Ministry was directed to create the infrastructural requirements within 12 weeks.

The judge made it clear that whenever the police receive man/woman missing complaints from the parents or relatives of people belonging to LGBTQIA+ community, such complaints should be closed after obtaining statements from the couple concerned that they were residing together of their own will. He also ordered that the consenting adults should not be subjected to any kind of harassment.

Sensitisation programmes could also be conducted for all stakeholders including police and prison authorities, judges, physical and mental health professionals, educational institutions, health workers, public and private workplaces, the judge said and directed Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan and Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram to file their compliance reports by August 31.

The interim orders were passed on a writ petition filed by two young women who had fled from Madurai to Chennai because their parents were opposed to the relationship between the couple. After directing the Madurai police to keep their hands off the issue, Justice Venkatesh decided to pen down an elaborate judgement on the subject at the request of the petitioners’ counsel S. Manuraj.

Observing that his own upbringing had always treated the terms homosexual, gay and lesbian as anathema and that a majority of the society stands in the same position of ignorance and preconceived notions, the judge said he underwent a psychoeducation session and also interacted with a transgender doctor and her mother before penning his verdict that there’s nothing abnormal about LGBTQIA+

The judge referred to Canadian biologist Bruce Bagemihl book on animal homosexuality and said that same sex behaviour had been documented in over 450 species of animals worldwide. Impressing upon the need for the society to accept the LGBTQIA+ community, he said: “The voice of this community is now getting louder and stronger and the society can no more turn a deaf ear.”

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