Amend rules to punish police personnel who harass LGBTQIA+ community, Court directs Tamil Nadu

The Madras High Court also wanted to know whether National Medical Commission would change its curriculum to sensitise doctors on the issue

September 01, 2021 01:04 pm | Updated 01:09 pm IST - CHENNAI

Madras High Court

Madras High Court

The Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to amend the conduct rules applicable to police personnel and provide for punishment to those who harass either the people belonging to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and such others’ (LGBTQIA+) community or harass non-governmental organisations that support such community members.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh issued the direction after expressing disappointment over complaints of the police continuing to harass the community despite comprehensive instructions issued by him on June 7 to various stakeholders with the aim of providing counselling, monetary support, legal assistance and protection to the LGBTQIA+ community members who face serious discrimination in society.

The judge ordered that even the sensitisation programmes to be conducted for the police personnel, in accordance with one of the directions issued by him on June 7, must be conducted through persons belonging to the community or LGBTQIA+ activists or NGO workers involved in the cause of supporting and protecting the community from various onslaughts.

Justice Venkatesh requested Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram to instruct the authorities concerned to be more proactive on the issue. The judge told the A-G that the State of Tamil Nadu was known for reforms in the interest of persons belonging to marginalized sections and therefore, it must be a role model in creating a favourable atmosphere for the LGBTQIA+ community too.

The court expressed dismay over certain incidents of insensitive reporting of news related to LGBTQIA+ community in the media. “Media’s insensitive commentary and ridiculing with dramatic words and music while “reporting” such news cannot be normalised. The reportage of the most intimate and personal aspects of an individual’s identity by the contemporary vernacular media is deeply problematic.

“It not just reflects the pre-existing harmful stigmatisation of the community, but also perpetuates it. Stigmatising, inaccurate and inherently unscientific phrases such as ‘A man has turned into a woman’ and ‘A woman has turned into a man’ are rooted in queerphobia and cannot be tolerated or entertained any further. It is high time journalists stick to sensitive and inclusive terms on the gender spectrum,” the court observed.

Refraining from issuing directions to the media since it might unwittingly trench upon the freedom of the press, the judge requested it to exercise self-restraint. “The choice of words ultimately should not demean the persons belonging to the community. This court reposes confidence on the press and expects the press to show more sensitivity while reporting such cases,” the judge added.

He was also shocked to come across a prescription given by a psychiatrist to a gay man without realising there was no cure for gender identity. Pointing out that the psychiatrist had also referred the patient to a psychotherapist for cognitive behavioural therapy, the judge said: “These are the ways and means adopted by professionals under the guise of conversion therapy.”

He went on to state: “Prescribing anti-depressants and erectile dysfunction drugs to a person and referring them into cognitive behavioural therapy as “remedy” to their gender identity and sexuality is nothing but conversion “therapy,” camouflaged as medical and mental health support. 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 judge requested Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan to take such issues to the notice of National Medical Commission and Indian Psychiatric Society and find out by October 4 as to how they plan to address such issues even if it had to be done by bringing in necessary changes to the medical course curriculum.

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