By LE Desk

Chennai, March 31: The Madras High Court on Tuesday ordered counselling to the parents of a same-sex couple after the duo sought protection following threats from their parents. 

The court said the counselling should be given by a specialist who has experience in working with LGBTQI (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) individuals.

The case pertains to two young women who fled their homes in Madurai and recently reached Chennai after their families opposed the relationship between them. The New Indian Express had reported on March 19 how the NGO members were harassed by the Madurai police for sheltering the lesbian couple. The parents of the women had filed a kidnapping case.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh, in his interim orders on Tuesday, observed that he is also in the process of unlearning pre-conceived notions held by him on such issues, The New Indian Express reported.

Earlier, the court took up the case and made the full hearing to in-camera proceedings after observing that the case has to be dealt with more sensitivity and empathy.

Hearing the submissions moved by both the parties, the court has engaged a counsellor who specialises in working with the LGBTQI+ community.

The court also directed the counsellor to submit a report to the court in a sealed cover by April 26. The court has asked the parents to resolve their differences with the same-sex couple through counselling.

In its orders on Tuesday, the judge observed, “This move becomes very vital since this court is moving into unchartered waters, and a report from a specialist will provide support to this Court to move forward in this case.”

The judge elaborated on the reasons for such a unique order. “I personally spent some time doing research and collecting materials to arrive at a proper understanding of this issue. It would have been possible for me to pack my order with a lot of research material and get applauded by the outside world for rendering a scholarly order.

“There was a call from inside which kept reminding me that if I venture into such an exercise at this stage, it will only be hypocritical of me since the order will not reveal my true and honest feeling about this very important issue. To be open, I am also trying to break my own preconceived notions about this issue and I am in the process of evolving, and sincerely attempting to understand the feelings of the petitioners and their parents.”

The judge said he was trying to “develop this case brick by brick and ultimately, construct something purposeful on this issue.”

The Court also recorded that the couple was very clear that both will be a partner to the other for life.

“The petitioners know each other for the last 2 years and both of them in unison stated that their friendship blossomed into love and they were very clear that both of them will be a partner to each other for life. The Petitioners did not mince any words and there was so much of clarity in what they wanted to convey,” the judge noted, following a personal, in-chamber interaction.

The court was also informed that the two had fallen in love while studying in college. With their parents opposing the relationship, the couple left for Madurai in February this year. The court was told that the couple is now being supported by the NGO — International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care — and that they are searching for jobs to settle down.

At the request of the counsels, the judge has sent a request to the chief justice to allow him to continue hearing the case despite the scheduled change of his portfolio from April 1. The next hearing in the case has been posted to April 28.

The court made clear that the status quo will be maintained in respect of the couple and they would continue to be under the protection of the NGO.

The State Government’s counsel too, during the hearing on Monday, submitted that the police will not interfere in this issue hereafter and the kidnap case filed by the parents will be closed immediately.

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