The Supreme Court recently stated that “familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships, or queer relationships,” while noting that an “atypical” manifestation of a family unit is as real as its traditional counterpart and deserves legal protection. The decision was made four years after Section 377 was repealed.
The dominant legal and social understanding of the concept of a “family” is that “it consists of a single, unchanging unit with a mother and a father (who remain constant over time) and their children.”
In a recent order, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna stated that “this assumption ignores both the many circumstances that may lead to a change in one’s familial structure and the fact that many families do not conform to this expectation, to begin with.” Domestic, unmarried partnerships and queer relationships are all examples of familial relationships. Furthermore, the bench stated that a household could be a single-parent household for a variety of reasons, such as the death of a spouse, separation, or divorce.
While the possibility of a queer future is far from reality, India has recently seen more progressive decisions, such as the recent ban on “conversion therapy.” According to recent news, the National Medical Commission has stated, “that action should be taken against medical professionals who prescribe illegal practices such as conversion therapy.”
Conversion therapy by medical professionals, an illegal practice that queer people are subjected to in order to ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation or gender, amounts to professional misconduct, the National Medical Commission (NMC) has told the Madras High Court. The High Court stated that the expert committee ‘made it very clear’ that any attempt or intervention to change a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity “should be construed as professional misconduct on the part of the person.”
Anish Gawande, the curator of Pink List India, says, “The National Medical Commission’s decision to classify conversion therapy as professional misconduct is a step in the right direction. Finally, medical professionals will be held accountable for participating in a barbaric, inhuman practice that denies queer people the right to our own identity.” “However, there’s still a lot more that needs to be done. We need to mobilise to ensure that legislation is passed that effectively criminalises conversion therapy, ensuring that those practising it can be prosecuted under the Indian Penal Code.”
“Finally, we need the conversation on conversion therapy to go beyond just punishing practitioners. We need shelter homes for those escaping abusive family dynamics, stricter legislation preventing parents from wrongfully detaining queer children, and greater sensitisation of authorities to ensure that queer people facing the threat of conversion therapy are protected and looked after.”
Despite certain progressions, the plight of the LGBTQIA+ community in India persists. A spate of hate crimes is on the rise. In July, a trans person was forcibly picked up from a Govt-supported shelter and beaten by police.
Rudrani Chettri, a transgender activist, based in Delhi, claimed in a Facebook Livestream that police from Dabri police station “forcefully picked up” a trans person from ‘Garima Greh’ late at night. These transgender shelter homes, known as “Garima Grehs” are supported by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to provide basic necessities such as shelter, food, medical care, and recreational opportunities.
The activist further explained, “They forced us to open the Garima Greh gate and pick up a transman from Uttar Pradesh.” Those who went to inquire about his whereabouts were beaten. They were harassed by police. She claimed that they were beaten because they were transgender.
During the live stream, she moved the camera to a group of injured people sitting in what appeared to be a hospital reception area. The footage showed many transgender people who were severely and visibly injured and claimed that police beat them unreasonably when they inquired about the whereabouts of the transman.
A transgender person from the team, identified as Bella, also said that “the police officers present misbehaved with them and ordered them to leave the area.” They also mistreated us. We kept telling them that we needed it in writing because it violated our policies and that we were leaving.
Later, police attacked the guard, and when we arrived to help him, they attacked us as well, injuring us, “In the video, she claims.
Another shocking and shameful incident occurred when police entered a government-sponsored shelter home for transgender people and assaulted transmen.
According to a press statement by TWEET Foundation, on 1 September 2022, at around 12.15 pm, a uniformed policeman from UP Police—Mr. Krishna Kant Singh Haidergarh-Thana Barabanki, along with his wife and son and two other unidentified men, barged into TWEET’s shelter home in Gurgaon Sec – 24 DLF Phase 3 and started beating 2 of their board members Shaman Gupta, age 33, Co-Chairperson at TWEET Foundation and Gautam Ramachandra, age 24, Board Member at TWEET who both identified as trans men and have been working to support other transmen community members.
Both Shaman and Gautam were beaten mercilessly by the four men and forcefully dragged and put into a jeep in broad daylight. Since the said policeman Krishna Kant Sigh had come in his uniform, the nearby neighbours and other people outside could not stop him from illegally beating and dragging our team members into their jeep.
Gautam and Shaman’s phones were taken away, and they were not allowed to contact anyone from their team, lawyers, and government officials who were associated with the NGO. Both team members were continuously beaten in the jeep and threatened to reveal the location of the transgender man, the son of Krishna Kant Singh, who was residing at TWEET’s shelter home after fleeing his home due to physical and mental violence and unacceptance of his gender identity.
They later took both Sherman and Gautam to the DLF Phase 3 police station, where they were again beaten and threatened by four men. The local police at the DLF Phase 3 Police Station did not heed what all these men, who had no legal right to hit and drag the two members, were doing at the police station. Local police at the DLF Phase 3 Police Station said “that his members of the team, including Mr. Sandeep and others (some in uniform and others not), were threatened and disobeyed at the police station. He didn’t even intervene when he was being detained.”
“The said police officers of DLF about the gender identity of the transman and when told that the NGO works closely with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and that it was illegal to withhold them and not allow them to make calls to their lawyers or government officials. It was only after one of the team members convinced these men that they would ask their team to get their transgender son, to the police station were they allowed to make a call to their team member.” said Abhina Aher, who is a senior trans rights activist and also the founder and board member of TWEET Foundation.
Members of the TWEET Foundation further stated that, “Our team member managed to tell Abhina about their location and asked her to get the transman (only to make these people believe that their child will be brought along) Abhina came in with other activists and support from other social workers and trans activists including Aryan Pasha who is a transman and a member of National Council for Transgender Persons. It was only after the trans rights activist came in and intervened that the two were released from the police station. They were taken for medical and given necessary care, said Krishan Kant Singh, the father of the transgender man, who is an adult, and previously on 6 August 2022, in front of his parents, the TWEETs team and police officials had already registered his statement at Govindpuri, New Delhi (where TWEETs shelter home was located earlier).”
After confirming that the said transgender person is an adult and is exercising his wishes, the Govindpuri police refused to intervene and allowed the transgender person to live on his own terms, in accordance with the law. The transgender person had come to the shelter home of his own will and was facing mental and physical violence at home and has recorded the same in written statements and on-video statements.
The transgender person also sent a legal notice dated 16 August 2022 to his home address via his lawyer regarding the threats that he and the NGO were receiving continuously. However, as per the lawyers, the said legal notice was returned with the reason of `address not found. The legal notice was also sent via email to the family member. Gautam and Shaman have been given apt medical care now, and we will be filing a formal complaint soon. They are still in trauma and are in touch with lawyers to file the necessary complaint.
It feels surreal that it has been four years since India decriminalised 377, but where do we stand today? LGBT people in India do not have marriage equality, adoption rights, or surrogacy rights, they are not allowed to serve openly in the military, and gay men are not allowed to donate blood. Along with no awareness, health protection, and support for homeless LGBTQIA+ individuals and insurance policies.
Aditya Tiwari is an award-winning journalist and queer activist. He tweets at @aprilislush.
Featured image source: GQIndia