In the wake of a controversial case of illegal confinement of an adult transperson and withholding of his travel and identity documents by his family, Hon’ble Justice Siddarth Mridul of the Delhi High Court has passed a judgement withholding the rights of Shivy as a transgender in Shivani Bhat v State of NCT of Delhi and Ors on the 5th of October, 2015. 19-year-old transgender person Shivy, a citizen of India but a resident of the United States of America was illegally confined in his grandparents’ home in Agra when he came with his parents to visit them in the summer. While he was a victim of domestic abuse by his family even in his California home, on this visit to India his passport and green card were confiscated by his family and he was forced to remain in Agra under their control. Even under this duress, Shivy managed to contact queer feminist resource group Nazariya and other queer rights activists and request their help to come to a safe space in New Delhi. Despite leaving a note informing his family that he was leaving of his own free will, his parents filed a missing person’s complaint with UP Police with the support of Delhi police, harassed, surveilled and threatened the activists who helped Shivy. Subsequently lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, Shivy and the LGBT activists moved the Delhi High Court on September 22 seeking protection for Shivy, his friends and well wishers from harassment, intimidation and coercion, and to ask for the return of his passport and green card from his family.
In an outstanding judgment on the case dated 5th October, 2015, Hon’ble Justice Siddarth Mridul “The present petition highlights and brings to the fore the socio-economic marginalization and exclusion of those whose behavior is considered “inappropriate” by society. It clearly demonstrates that those who do not conform,render themselves vulnerable to harassment and violence not just by the Police but also by society that ridicules them. Transgenders have long lived on the fringes of society, often in poverty, ostracized severely, because of their gender identity. They have for too long had to endure public ridicule and humiliation; have been socially marginalized and excluded from society, their basic human rights have been severely denuded”. The judgement reads, “Despite the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme course in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India and Ors: (2014) 5 SCC 438, the trauma, agony and pain, which members of the transgender community have to undergo continues unabated. It further says, “Every human being has certain inalienable rights. This is a doctrinethat is firmly enshrined in our constitution. Gender identity and Sexual orientation are fundamental to the right of self-determination, dignity and freedom of individuals. A transgender’s sense or experience of gender is integral to their core personality and sense of being. Insofar as, I understand the law, everyone has a fundamental right tobe recognized in their chosen gender. This view is buttressed by the landmark decision of the Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority (supra)” Upholding the rights of transgender persons, the judgement also says, “There is, thus, no gainsaying the fact that transgenders enjoy basic human rights including protection from violence and discrimination. They have the right to dignity and self-determination.”
The judgement also mentioned the false FIR lodged against Unknown persons supporting and helping Shivy in the time of help. Mr. Avi Singh, Additional Standing Counsel (Crl.) assured the court that Delhi Police does not intend to take coercive steps either against Shivani or against those who offered to support her. Despite being served notice, there was no representative from respondent No. 2 the State of Uttar Pradesh but the court has issued a direction to respondent No. 2 not to harass or illegally confine anybody from within the territorial jurisdiction of this court except in accordance with the procedure established by law. Shivy says that he is happy with the judgement and he can continue with his life and studies in the US now. Rituparna Borah from Nazariya says, “I am elated with the judgement as it upholds individual freedom and liberty of gender identity and sexual expression. Hope this judgement helps other people who are still struggling and facing custodial violence from family.”
Lesley Esteves, a queer rights activist who was part of Shivy’s support network, said that “I would be proud to have a son like Shivy, unlike his parents Laxminarayan Bhat and Seema Rani Bhat who abysmally failed to support him. Instead they illegally dispossessed him of his documents and confined him against his will because of their severe transphobia and utter disrespect for law. They knowingly filed a false complaint against us with UP Police alleging that he was kidnapped, despite receiving a letter from him that he was leaving of his own free will. Effectively, his abductors tried to charge others with kidnapping, in order to cut off his support system in India. But the parents did not imagine that a court would step in to protect constitutional rights of Shivy and other queer people supporting him. They were firmly rebuked by the court today, when they were told by the judge that he would “end this bigotry today”. We are greatly encouraged by this judgment. The LGBTQIA movement will continue to fight for inalienable rights of transpersons when their families act criminally against them”.
This judgement succeeds the interim order on 22nd September where the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi Police to provide protection to 19-year-old Shivy and LGBTQ activists supporting him from the harassment, intimidation and coercion they are facing by his family. Quoting playwright and activist late Safdar Hashmi who had talked about how our expression is based on the experience that we have, Justice Siddharth Mridul commented on how it was that people are so quick to pass judgement on things they know little about, that may not be their own experience, like sexual orientation. He noted that this was nothing but bigotry, though this is supposed to be a tolerant country.
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