Kerala High Court: Family Can Be a 'Site of Violence' for LGBTQIA+ Individuals


Kerala High Court: Family Can Be a 'Site of Violence' for LGBTQIA+ Individuals. The Kerala High Court recently highlighted the severe violence and discrimination faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly queer women, within their own homes. The division bench of Justices Raja Vijayaraghavan V and PM Manoj made these observations while hearing a habeas corpus plea concerning the alleged illegal detention of a woman by her partner.

The Court emphasized that LGBTQIA+ individuals often encounter violence, stigma, and familial rejection from an early age due to their identity. "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," the Court stated. It further noted that this stigma stems from "inaccurate beliefs and cultural norms" that suppress gender-nonconforming behavior, leading to long-term impacts on mental health, employability, access to education, and housing.

Living under such oppressive conditions can have devastating effects, isolating individuals from crucial physical, emotional, and economic resources. "This rejection can take a devastating toll on individuals and isolate them from physical, emotional, and economic resources that are essential to their well-being," the Court observed. It stressed the importance of recognizing that, for many queer women, the family can be a site of violence and control, necessitating protection rather than guardianship.

The Court also broadened the concept of family beyond the natal family to include chosen families, particularly for LGBTQIA+ persons who face violence and lack safety from their biological families. "When faced with humiliation, indignity, and even violence, people look to their partners and friends who become their chosen family," the Court remarked.

These observations were made during the consideration of a plea filed by the parents of a woman who alleged that their daughter was illegally detained by a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. The parents claimed that this person had lured their daughter into a social media group called "Mazhavillu" (rainbow) and argued that their daughter had behavioral issues requiring psychological treatment.

However, upon interacting with both the daughter and her partner, the Court found that the daughter had willingly chosen to be in a relationship with her partner, a transman. She accused her parents of attempting to force her to change her identity and sexual orientation under the guise of addressing supposed psychological issues and expressed fear of retribution and violence from them.

The Court acknowledged that the petitioners' daughter is an adult capable of making informed decisions about her life. It criticized the counseling psychologist's report, which wrongly presumed that the daughter's gender identity and sexual preferences were acts of defiance that could be altered through treatment. "Such assumptions are baseless and inappropriate, and the report cannot be used to override the autonomous choices that Ms. X has made," the Court observed.

In dismissing the petition, the Court affirmed the daughter's right to live on her own terms and issued directives to ensure her safety from familial threats and violence.

Author: Anushka Taraniya

News writer