Judge Seeks Help to 'Understand Same-Sex Relationships' Before Verdict

A judge in India intends to seek an education session on same-sex relationships before ruling on a case involving a lesbian couple.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh was set to give a ruling at the Madras High Court in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, on the case involving the couple, aged 20 and 22, who had fled their homes in Madurai to be together.

The families of the couple opposed the relationship. Parents of one of the women filed kidnapping charges against Shiva Kumar, who runs the LGBT+ rights charity Nirangal in Chennai where the pair had sought refuge. Kumar was questioned by police in March, the New Indian Express reported.

Before the judge makes a decision on a protection plea filed by the couple, he said he will enroll for a session with Chennai-based psychologist Vidhya Dinakaran, a counsellor with expertise in LGBT+ issues.

He said that he needed more time to think and that such a session "will help me understand same-sex relationships better and will pave way for my evolution." He added: "If I write an order after undergoing psycho-education, I trust that the words will fall from my heart."

"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 this aspect," Venkatesh said, according to the Times of India.

He had earlier requested counselling sessions to be held with the couple and their parents and for the psychologist to submit a report to the court.

"I am also trying to break my own preconceived notions about this issue," he said, adding that he was "in the process of evolving and sincerely attempting to understand the feelings of the petitioners and their parents."

The judge cancelled the missing person's reports for the woman and the case has been adjourned until June 7.

The couple, graduates from Madurai Kamaraj University, are under the care of a non-governmental organization, International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care, and looking for work, The Hindu reported.

LGBT rights in India have evolved in recent years with the country decriminalizing gay sex in a historic ruling in 2018 that overturned a 157-year-old law from the colonial era.

However, papers filed in February on behalf of the Indian government to the High Court New Delhi, said that despite the decriminalization, couples "cannot claim a fundamental right for same-sex marriage," The Independent reported.

LGBT supporters Chennai
A pride parade is pictured in Chennai on June 30, 2019. A judge in the city ruling on the case of a lesbian couple has said he will undertake an education session on same-sex relationships. ARUN SANKAR/Getty Images