Pride Not Prejudice – LGBTQ + representation in the judiciary

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We are celebrating June as Pride Month to recognize the touch of color that the LGBTQ + community adds to our society. This month, we renew our commitment to fight for their equal rights and fair treatment. The celebration of Pride Month can be attributed to the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 At New York. The Stonewall Inn was a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York, which was raided by police in the early hours of the 28e June 1969 to investigate the illegal sale of alcohol at the bar. The NYPD interviewed gay customers at the bar. Those who had ID were released, while others, such as bar workers and drag queens were arrested and loaded into the police van. The arrests turned into riots and protests that lasted 6 days, marking a turning point for LGBTQ + activism in the United States. On the first anniversary of the riots, thousands of people marched through the streets of Manhattan, proud and proud, from the Stonewall Inn in Central Park, celebrating America’s first Gay Pride Parade. Fast forward to 1979, when Stephen Lachs, the first openly gay judge, was appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. As in May 2020, the United States has 11 openly LGBTQ + judges in its federal court system.

Before drawing a contrast between the representation of LGBTQ + members in the US justice system versus the Indian justice system, we must recognize that the Indian workplace has not been the ideal setup for the queer community to thrive. . A raised eyebrow, an uncomfortable silence, and glances exchanged across the room often demoralized them. Micro-revolutions have taken place in some institutions. However, a large-scale movement is needed to create safe and inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ + community. Institutions as a whole must adopt measures to transform homophobia and bigotry into acceptance.

When a pillar of democracy, in this case the judiciary, commits to making inclusiveness the norm, the impact is visible on other members of society. The judiciary, being the embodiment of equality, must be at the forefront of integrating members of the queer community into its structure. Diversity enriches a justice system. It strengthens public confidence in the courts, since the population sees decision-makers as a reflection of the society to which they belong. When members of the LGBTQ + community are welcomed to the bench, they bring different perspectives, social experiences, and intellectual abilities that might otherwise go untapped simply because of homophobia. While some people are not appointed judges on the sole basis of their sexual orientation, other members of the legal fraternity, including judges, should discourage such discrimination and not be silent spectators. Kate Gilmore, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, while advocating for equal rights for the LGBTQ + community, said: “You don’t have to love me to respect my rights. I don’t have to agree with you to defend your rights. You don’t have to be like me for me to protect your rights.“The homophobia of a handful of people in positions of power must not deprive an entire nation of brilliant judges and strong case law.

In this context of the lack of diversity of the Indian judicial system, the adoption of positive action linked to the principle of merit is essential. The view that “affirmative action” is incompatible with appointment on the basis of merit is incorrect. Over the years, the queer community has undoubtedly been deprived of equal opportunity in many areas. Even though the judgment decriminalizing consensual same-sex sex between adults, and granting them equal status was passed in 2018, India is still in the infancy of making its public offices a level playing field, open to members of the public. the LGBTQ + community. In order to translate judicial decisions into the reality on the ground, it is imperative to make special efforts to seek out and identify deserving members of the community, and to appoint them as judges.

Sociologist Dipankar Gupta in his book “Wrong modernity: India between two worlds“explains how it may appear that India has embraced” modernity “, but the idea of” modernity “is limited to the use of gadgets and technology, and excludes individual freedom and human dignity. The High Court de Madras recently issued a judgment which was a step towards embracing “modernity” as it relates to the rights and protection of the LGBTQ + community. The judgment indicates how Judge Anand Venkatesh overcame his personal biases and took charge of delivering justice in all its forms and minds. He considered it a duty to educate himself, lest his ignorance interfere with the LGBTQ + community’s orientation towards justice social.

The appointment of judges from the queer community will serve as an example for other institutions. LGBTQ + inclusion is beneficial in more than one way: First, being obvious – it is in the promotion of human rights, as Hillary Clinton said: “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights” “; Secondly, it attracts talents and skills beyond the limits of sexual orientation, thirdly, an inclusive work environment helps retain talent, Fourth, it sends a signal to the world on the progressive position taken, and recently, it shapes new perspectives and re-imagines those that already exist.

In 2017, India witnessed a shift in the needle of acceptance when Joyita Mondal, the first transgender judge, was appointed to Lok Adalat in the Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal. Such a representation also emerged in 2018 in Maharashtra, where Vidya Kamble, and Assam, where Swati Bidhan Baruah, members of the transgender community were appointed as judges in the Lok Adalats district of Nagpur and Guwahati, respectively. While this may be the first step in dipping our feet in the ocean of diversity, we have miles to go before we perceive judicial appointments not as gay people first, but as deserving professionals.

In October 2017, the Delhi High Court unanimously recommended the elevation of Saurabh Kirpal, an openly gay and scholarly senior lawyer, as a High Court judge. To date, however, the central government has not made a decision on its elevation. In the normal course, once a recommendation is made by the Court, the Government routinely approves it. The government has expressed concerns over Kirpal’s appointment on the grounds that his partner is a foreign national, which may pose a security threat. This justification, however, may not stand the test of reason, since there have been cases in the past of judges whose partners were foreign nationals having been appointed to the bench. [For instance, Justice Vivian Bose at the Supreme Court of India, and Justice Ravi Dhawan as the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court]. The lingering question is how long before we, as a society, can look beyond sexual orientation and create an inclusive community. It cannot be denied that when it is time for India to appoint its openly strange first judge, we can repent for not having granted us this privilege sooner and for depriving ourselves of celebrating all the colors of the rainbow. -in sky.

Views are personal

The author is a lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court of India


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