On Monday while addressing a same sex couple’s plea for protection at the Madras High Court, Justice N Anand Venkatesh admitted in-camera to working on his own ‘preconceived notions’ about non-heteronormative relationships in society. As a way to implement his evolving values into his work, he has also involved a queer-affirmative counsellor to work with the petitioners, who are the queer couple, and their parents, from whom they are seeking protection.
Coupled with the recent case in the Delhi High Court that sought to dissolve a marriage that a lesbian woman was forced into, while giving her protection from any backlash from her family, this is a potential watershed moment for how queer folx are treated in the eyes of the law in the country.
Especially in the case at the Madras High Court, the judge is admitting to the need for a change in the lens through which the law is interpreted & implemented. With this tiny ray of hope, the queer feminist community in India can hope that other agents of the Judiciary use this as a precedent and take a leaf out of Justice Venkatesh’s book to admit their personal biases when dealing with cases involving identities that they have no lived experience in.
However, I’d insist that we don’t get ahead of ourselves when celebrating this moment unless it is clearing the way queer-affirmative laws such as those preventing conversion therapy, ensuring civil rights such as marital privileges for queer folx, and de-medicalizing trans identity while recognizing the validity of self-determination of gender, among others. Taking it a step further would involve considering queer people and their unique experiences while crafting new laws in the country, such as those determining citizenship.
In the longer run, the recognition of the limitations of a carceral system, which often relies on the colonial approach of ‘othering’ of certain identities (including but not limited to the queer identity) is the likely way to paving sustainable change & an enduring sense of justice.