London : Transgenders have all along faced ‘harassment, violence and ridicule’ due to their gender identity and lived in the fringes of society, the Delhi High Court observed today, saying the time has now come to bring them to the mainstream.

The court also noted that despite a Supreme Court verdict of 2014 in favour of the transgenders, the trauma, agony and pain they undergo, ‘continues unabated’.

Justice Siddharth Mridul made the observations while coming to the rescue of a US-based NRI transgender who had alleged that she was forcibly brought to India by her parents to be reformed and taught to be ‘a proper girl’.

The judge said the ‘prejudice’ against transgenders was “so rampant and so authoritative that even families fall prey to its all pervasive pressure” and quoted Rabindranath Tagore’s verse, ‘Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God, First remove the darkness of sin from your heart’.

“There is then no gainsay in the fact that transgenders enjoy basic human rights including protection from violence and discrimination. They have right to dignity and self determination. The time has come for us to mainstream transgender community,” the court said, terming 18-year-old petitioner Shivani Bhat as a ‘braveheart’.

In her plea, she had alleged that her father, an ‘influential businessman’ with ‘deep roots in Uttar Pradesh’, had ‘activated the state machinery’ to deprive her of her ‘fundamental rights to life, liberty and education’ by trying to coerce her to get married to a man of their choice.

However, Shivani’s parents today assured the court that they would continue to finance her education for the next three years as long as she pursues bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from University of California, USA.

In addition to tuition fees, they will also provide USD 500 per month to her for personal expenses. Her parents, who were present during the proceedings, also gave her USD 300 and Rs 10,000 in the court.

The court noted that the parents had also restored her Green Card and passport and gave her a ticket to San Francisco, as the court made it clear that she ‘shall travel unaccompanied and will not be subjected to any harassment upon arrival at USA’.

In detailed observations, the court said “every human being has certain inalienable rights. This is a concept which is enshrined in our Constitution.

“Gender identity and sexual orientation are fundamental to right of self determination, dignity and freedom. This right lies at the heart of personal autonomy and freedom of persons. … A transgender’s sense of gender is integral to their core personality and sense of being,” it said.

The judge said that insofar his knowledge of the law was concerned, “everyone has a fundamental right to be recognised in their chosen gender”, adding that this view was “buttressed” by the apex court’s 2014 verdict and added the fact that Rajya Sabha has already passed a private bill to promote the rights of transgenders.

The court said that while the ‘indomitable spirit’ shown by Shivani may not yet have brought a change to society, but it has persuaded her parents to alter their view. Delhi Police, meanwhile, assured the court that it has already provided her adequate protection and would continue to do so till she leaves India.

It also told the court that it does not intend to take any coercive steps against Shivani or those who offered her support.

When she was cornered by her parents here and was left with no option, Shivani had sought help from the National Centre for Lesbian Rights in the US which had put her in touch with LGBT activists in India and NGO ‘Nazariya’.

On September 10, she had left Agra and came to Delhi with the help of the activists of the NGO that works for the rights of transgender persons.

The court on Monday also directed Uttar Pradesh Police, with whom a complaint was lodged by Shivani’s mother when she had gone missing, “not to harass or illegally confine anybody from

the territorial jurisdiction of this court except as per procedure established under law”.

The court issued the direction after Shivani’s mother said  “in view of rapprochement” between her and her daughter, she was no longer interested in pursuing the complaint which had fructified into an FIR under section 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) of IPC.

“Alls well that ends well,” the court said disposing of the plea moved by Shivani, seeking protection from harassment, intimidation and coercion by her family, who had migrated to the US when the girl was three-years-old. PTI

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