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During a hearing to take stock of progress made in compliance with the detailed guidelines issued by the Madras High Court in the Mrs S. Sushma & Ors. v. The Director-General of Police & Ors case, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh lauded the state government for making an effort to inculcate a culture of respect for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) community.
The Tamil Nadu state government had recently amended the TN Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules,1964 by the inclusion of Rule 24-C, a rule that prohibits police officers from harassing LGBTQIA+ persons.
“The above Government Order should be considered as a milestone since it is a decisive step taken by the State Government to inform persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community that the Government is making an earnest effort to create inclusive and safe spaces for the community and bring about a protective environment,” said the court.
The court also accepted the standardized glossary of correct terms and words related to the LGBTQIA+ community and instructed the press to follow the same in letter and spirit. The court placed on record “its deep appreciation for the sincere efforts taken by the State Government in bringing out the glossary” and said, “This important step will ensure that the media, press and the society at large address persons belonging to LGBTQIA+ community in a more dignified and respectable manner.”
The complete order may be read here:
Brief background of the case
The Mrs S. Sushma & Ors. v. The Director-General of Police & Ors case proved to be a harbinger of new hope for the LGBTQIA+ community. First, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh, accepted in all humility that he did not know enough about the community and their trials and tribulations.
In April 2021, Justice Venkatesh had said, “I honestly feel that such a session with a professional will help me understand same-sex relationships better and will pave way for my evolution,” adding, “Ultimately in this case, the words must come from my heart and not from my head, and the same will not be possible if I am not fully “woke” on this aspect. For this purpose, I want to subject myself for psycho-education with Ms. Vidhya Dinakaran and I would request the psychologist to fix a convenient appointment for the same.”
He then underwent counselling for the same and also spoke with members of the community, NGOs working to support such people and lawyers. After that in a landmark judgment delivered in June 2021, gave some detailed directions to police, judiciary, legal aid services and central ministries to sensitise employees and personnel in dealing with members of LGBTQIA+ community.
In September 2021, passed another order with further directions to the police and media. The court also pointed to the report submitted by Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju where she pointed out that medical fields of Psychiatry and Psychology have been complicit in perpetuating queerphobia. She said that there are vast amounts of transphobic and homophobic literature in medical textbooks. She cites Forensic Medicine describing “sodomy”, “lesbianism” and oral sex as sexual offences, and “transvestism” (cross-dressing) as a “sexual perversion”. Then on October 13, the National Medical Commission (NMC), issued an advisory pertaining to misinformation about and derogatory references to members of the LGBTQIA+ community in medical text books.
The advisory said, “It has been noted that the various textbooks of medical education, mainly for Forensic Medicine & Toxicology subject and Psychiatry subject contains unscientific information about virginity and also contain derogatory remarks against LGBTQIA+ Community and Homosexuals.”
The advisory forbids Medical Colleges and Universities from teaching subjects related to gender and sexuality in a derogatory/discriminatory/
The next High Court hearing has been scheduled for April 8, 2022.