Judge orders himself to speak to a psychologist to ‘understand same-sex relationships better’ before ruling
A high court judge in India has ordered himself to undergo an education session with a psychologist on same-sex relationships before ruling on a case relating to a lesbian couple.
The young couple, aged 20 and 22, fled to Chennai from their homes in Madurai to be together after their parents forbid their relationship, seeking refuge with an LGBT+ activist in the eastern Indian city at the beginning of March.
After they escaped, their families filed kidnapping charges against Shiva Kumar, who runs the LGBT+ rights charity Nirangal, and with whom the couple had sought shelter.
On Wednesday (28 April), the Madras High Court was set to give a ruling on a protection plea filed by the couple, but instead, Justice N Anand Venkatesh gave an interim order to himself, according to The New Indian Express.
He said: “I honestly feel that such a session with a professional will help me understand same-sex relationships better and will pave way for my evolution.”
Venkatesh explained that he would attend an education session with Chennai-based psychologist Vidhya Dinakaran, and added: “Ultimately in this case, the words must come from my heart and not from my head, and the same will not be possible if I am not fully ‘woke’ on the subject.”
He did however note that the two women were not “confused”, and said that they appeared to love their families, but were terrified of being separated. He also cancelled the missing person’s reports for the two women.
The court has adjourned until 7 June.
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In March, the High Court judge ordered counselling for both the couple and their families with a therapist who has experience with the LGBT+ community.
According to the Times of India, Venkatesh admitted at the time: “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 couple and their parents.”
Having spoken with the couple, he also said: “They have known each other for the last two 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.
“They did not mince any words and there was so much clarity in what they wanted to convey.”
But stigma and discrimination are still commonplace, and society in general remains highly conservative.