Families can become ‘sites of violence’ for LGBTQIA+ individuals, says Kerala High Court

It is important to recognise that families can often become “sites of violence” for LGBTQIA+ individuals, who may need protection rather than “guardianship”, the Kerala High Court observed recently.

“For many LGBTQIA+ individuals, especially in India, expressing their gender identity or sexuality, is an act of defiance in a society that continues to set rigid cultural norms for gender identity and expression,” a division bench comprising Justices Raja Vijayaraghavan V Justice P M Manoj observed.

The bench noted that LGBTQIA+ individuals “face stigma, violence, and discrimination” for their identity.

“This stigma is often rooted in inaccurate beliefs and cultural norms that repress gender non-conforming behaviour and expressions,” it said.

The court also pointed out that rejection from families “can take a devastating toll “ on LGBTQIA+ individuals and may isolate them from the physical, emotional and financial resources they need for their well-being.

“In such cases, it is important to recognise the family as a site of violence and control for many queer women, who they need protection from rather than any ‘guardianship’,” the bench held.

The court was hearing a petition by a 23-year-old woman’s parents, who alleged that their daughter was being illegally detained and living in a “toxic” relationship with a same-sex partner.

The parents told the court that certain LGBTQIA+ individuals “lured” their daughter to join an online social media group. They said they had to seek therapy counselling for their daughter from a psychologist as she was “suffering from psychological and behavioral issues”.

The court then spoke with the 23-year-old woman, who said she had consciously chosen her partner. She also alleged that her parents forced her to undergo counselling to “overcome” her sexual identity.

The court held that the woman was capable of making her own decisions and criticised the counselling report that called her relationship toxic.

“We are of the view that the report proceeds on a fundamentally flawed premise and is liable to be ignored,” said the bench. “The psychologist appears to have operated under the erroneous presumption that expression of gender identity or sexual preferences by Ms X is an act of defiance and if treated, her identity and sexual orientation could be altered.”

It directed the station house officer concerned to protect the woman against threats and violence from her family members.

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