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Tamil Nadu judge bans conversion therapy, India’s first state to do so

by Ashima

A landmark decision for the LGBTQIA+ community this Pride month.

By Simran Kaur

Less than three years after India reversed the ban on LGBTQIA+ couples, on the 7th of June 2021, the Madras High Court ruled to ban conversion therapy in an attempt to help India’s LGBTQIA+ community feel more accepted and to move towards a future nation that is more inclusive for all. Tamil Nadu is the first Indian state to do so.

This important decision came into action after a lesbian couple were harassed by the police after being reported as missing. The young couple had fled from their homes and moved to Chennai as their parents did not support their relationship. After continuous police harassment, they decided to request for external protection from the court.

While the court was able to provide the couple with the protection they sought, they also ensured that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment would aid those in need by providing them with protection from the community alongside other essentials such as food, health care, and housing.

They also encouraged the government to plan programmes that raise awareness amongst police authorities, legal service authorities, healthcare professionals, educational institutions, and other members of society about LGBTQIA+ rights. The order also discusses gender-neutral toilets, and individuals being given the right to change their names and genders in official records.

Along with a court ruling that officially banned “attempts to medically cure or change the sexual orientation of LGBTQIA+ people to heterosexual or the gender identity of transgender people to cisgender,” Justice N Anand Venkatesh explained how the report written about the allegedly missing couple “brought to light an important issue requiring de-stigmatisation and acceptance in the eyes of society.”

To further support the court’s rulings, Justice Venkatesh disclosed how he worked closely with psychologists and a medical doctor, who is a transgender woman, to reach his conclusions and fight his own prejudices. Many of which are shared by the community around him. He also demanded the national Medical Commission, the Indian Psychiatric Society, and the Rehabilitation Council of India to invalidate the licenses of those who participate in “any form or method of conversion ‘therapy’”.

To share their happiness, several members of parliament such including Kanimozhi Karunanidhi tweeted “The guidelines ordered by Justice N Anand Venkatesh for safeguarding LGBTQIA+ rights is a remarkable landmark judgment in sensitizing society and authorities, and in reducing discrimination.” Although it is uncertain whether Justice Venkatesh knew that June was recognised as Pride month, he has undoubtedly played an important role in initiating important conversations about LGBTQIA+ rights in India.

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