The Madras High Court, in a significant move, has called upon the Tamil Nadu government to acknowledge the "Deed of Familial Association" as a legal document for recognizing the rights of same-sex couples. This plea came to the forefront during a hearing prompted by a lesbian couple seeking protection from their relatives.
Safeguarding LGBTQIA+ Rights: A Judicial Imperative
Justice N. Anand Venkatesh, presiding over the case, emphasized the importance of such a provision in safeguarding the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. The court asserted that this recognition would enable individuals in same-sex relationships to live free from disturbance or harassment.
Justice Venkatesh stated, "While undertaking this exercise, this suggestion or proposal given by the petitioner can be taken into consideration, and the State can come up with a procedure for registration of such Deed of Familial Association and the scope of such a deed."
The court further emphasized that implementing this provision could significantly enhance the social standing of individuals in same-sex relationships.
"If that is done, the State will be able to give its stamp of approval to persons who are in a relationship in the community, and, to a great extent, this will enhance the status of such persons in society," noted the court.
It urged the state to incorporate this suggestion into the finalization of policies for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Policy Implementation: Directives to Government Departments
To expedite the incorporation of the "Deed of Familial Association" into legal recognition, Justice Venkatesh directed the Social Welfare and Women Empowerment Department, which is currently in the process of finalizing policies for the LGBTQIA+ community, to consider a system for registering such deeds. This marks a promising step by the judiciary to institutionalize legal frameworks that cater to the basic needs of the LGBTQIA+ community.
A Response to Ongoing Challenges
The order arose from an intervening application in a case initiated by a lesbian couple seeking protection from their relatives. The Court, throughout the proceedings, issued directives aimed at furthering the welfare of LGBTQIA+ individuals. The intervenor sought recognition of deeds of familial association, arguing that such contracts would provide a legal framework to counter daily harassment and protect the rights of individuals within the community.
Deed of Familial Association: A Legal Safeguard
The proposed Deed of Familial Association is designed to address two critical aspects: protection from harassment or violence by society or biological families and protection against discrimination impacting employment, housing, and assimilation in society. The Court, endorsing the petitioner's proposal, acknowledged its prima facie convincing nature and directed authorities to incorporate it into the drafting of a policy for the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Madras High Court's call for the recognition of a Deed of Familial Association marks a significant stride towards ensuring the rights and dignity of individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community.