Madras HC directs TN govt to amend rules to punish cops who harass LGBTQ+ people

The Madras High court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to amend rules in order to take action against police personnel who harass people from the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) community or those belonging to NGOs supporting such people.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh issued the direction on Wedensday after expressing disappointment over complaints of police harassing LGBTQIA+ members as well the NGOs supporting them.

Venkatesh said that he had issued comprehensive directions on June 7 to various stakeholders, including the state government, to provide counselling, monetary support, legal assistance and protection to the LGBTQIA+ community members, who face serious discriminations in the society.

Venkitesh said that despite the issuance of such a directive, there were no marked changes.

He also said that his June 7 order to hold a sensitisation programme for the police personal on the issue was not followed.

Venkatesh said that the sensitisation programme must be conducted by persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community or NGO members who are involved in protecting and looking after the welfare of such people.

The judge asked Advocate General R. Shanmugasundaram to direct the authorities concerned to be more proactive on the issue.

He also said that Tamil Nadu has made several progressive reforms, but he could not understand why the police personnel still continue to harass the members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Coming down heavily on the media for ‘insensitive’ reporting about the members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Venkatesh said, “The reportage of the most intimate and personal aspects of an individual’s identity by the contemporary vernacular media is deeply problematic.”

“It not only reflects the pre-existing harmful stigmatisation of the society, but also perpetuates it. Stigmatising inaccurate and inherently unscientific terms like ‘A man turned into a woman’ or a ‘Woman turned into a man’ are based on queerphobia and cannot be tolerated or entertained any further. It is high time journalists stick to sensitive and inclusive terms on the gender spectrum,” he added.

The court, however, observed that it reposes confidence in the press and urges it to show more sensitivity while reporting such cases.

The judge also said that he was shocked to know about a psychiatrist giving a prescription to a gay man without realising that there is no cure for gender identity.

He also pointed out that the psychiatrist had referred the gay man to a psychotherapist for cognitive behavioural therapy.

The court observed, “These are the ways and means adopted by professionals under the guise of conversion therapy.”