The Madras High Court decided the term, relating to marriage in the Hindu community in India, should also refer to a trans woman and should not solely be used for people assigned female at birth.
Authorities in Tamil Nadu in south India had refused to register the marriage of Arun Kumar and Sreeja, a man and trans woman, who asked authorities for formal recognition after a service in a temple ceremony last year.
Their marriage was initially rejected on the grounds that a trans woman “can’t be treated as a bride as per Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1956.”
The couple took the decision to the high court, where judge G R Swaminathan said authorities were wrong, referring to past judgements of the Supreme Court. The judge declared that the ‘personhood’ of transgender persons has been recognised under the Indian Constitution.
“Gender identity falls within the domain of her personal autonomy and involves her right to privacy and dignity. It is not for the State authorities to question this self-determination of the second petitioner herein.”
– Judge G R Swaminathan
Swaminathan said: “Gender identity falls within the domain of her personal autonomy and involves her right to privacy and dignity. It is not for the State authorities to question this self-determination of the second petitioner herein.”
The judge added: “For too long, the transgender persons have been languishing in the margins. The Constitution of India is an enabling document. It is inviting them to join the mainstream. It is absurd to deny the transgenders the benefit of the social institutions already in place in the mainstream.”
The ruling will make it easier for trans weddings
The ruling is expected to set a precedent that will make it easier for trans brides and grooms alike in India to get married without discrimination and build a case against being refused to register for marriage.
“This Court is not breaking any new ground. It is merely stating the obvious. Sometimes to see the obvious, one needs not only physical vision in the eye but also love in the heart,” the court said.
The court also asked the Tamil Nadu government to issue an order against sex reassignment surgeries on intersex infants and children.