Madras High Court Paves The Way For Active Allyship In The Indian Judiciary

In the spirit of allyship, the Madras HC has issued an 8-point guideline that seeks to protect queer people from police harassment at the behest of their parents. This move flows from Justice Anand Venkatesh’s single bench jury, which has in the past openly sought the services of a queer-affirmative therapist in a case and admitted to the need to unlearn bias against non-heteronormative relationships.

In this case of S. Sushama & another vs. Commissioner of Police & others, the Court said that social acceptance and sensitization is a crucial step to protecting the lives and dignity of queer folx and their relationships as well as communities.

The bench also identified that although change is possible through legislative intervention, the interests of the queer community need to be safeguarded in the interim. To this effect, it issued guidelines that:

1. Police shall immediately close complaints found to be reporting missing persons who are consenting adults belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community.

2. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment must empanel non-profit orgs and community-led groups that have expertise in handling matters related to the queer community.

3. Queer persons facing issues related to their safety can approach these orgs for assistance. The names of the orgs will be published on the Ministry’s website and periodically updated.

4. The records of all those approaching the aforementioned orgs for help will be kept confidential in consultation with the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MSJE).

5. The problems brought to light will be dealt on a case-by-case basis with the support of District Legal Services Authority and other law enforcement agencies (especially wrt crimes against queer persons).

6. The MSJE will look into making short-term shelters available and suitable for queer persons reporting issues about safety and social adjustment, where capacity-building, food, medicine and other requirements will be taken care of.

7. The Union and State governments with the support of various other departments and ministries shall look into ways that will mainstream the LGBTQIA community and reduce prejudices against them.

8. To create awareness, concerned Ministries should conduct sensitization programs, such as (but not limited to) as part of school and university curricula & in Parent-Teacher meetings. In this regard, the Court also suggested gender-neutral restrooms, change of name & gender of trans-persons in academic records, inclusion of ‘transgender’ category in records, and appointment of queer-affirmative counselors for staff members.

The Court also made similar suggestions to sensitize police & prison authorities, members of the judiciary, as well health professionals. To this effect, it prohibited any effort to ‘cure’ queerness in people by healthcare providers, with action to be initiated against those propagating these malpractices, including the revocation of their license to practice.

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Tejaswi is journalist and researcher whose attention is captured by post-colonial human relationships at a time of the Internet of Things. She can't wait to become a full-time potter soon, though!

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