The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has
upheld that the marriage solemnised between a man and a transwoman was valid under
the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and ordered its registration.
The judgement comes in the backdrop of a case of
a couple who sought a direction to the Joint Registrar to register their
marriage that was solemnised at a Hindu temple as per Hindu rights and customs.
The High Court quoted the NALSA v. Union of
India (2014) judgement which had established the right of transgender persons
to decide on their self-identified gender. The court observed that the bride
who was being refused that status had chosen to express her gender as woman,
and the State has no right to question it.
It further added that self-identification was
part of her personal autonomy and denying it violated her right to privacy and
dignity as guaranteed under Article 21.
The High Court has held that the expression
“bride” occurring in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act cannot have a static
or immutable meaning. It quoted Justice G.P. Singh’s Principles of Statutory
Interpretation which says that the court is free to apply the current meaning
of a statute to present-day conditions.
The high court has also directed the Health and
Family Welfare department to issue an order prohibiting the performance of sex
reassignment surgery on inter-sex infants and children. The court highlighted
the need to keep them within the family and the mainstream of society by
allowing to grow into their own sense of gender.
Madras High court’s judgment has been highly appreciated
by LGBTQI activists. It is a path-breaking judgement for the LGBTQI community,
which is denied equal protection of laws with regard to civil rights.