The instance, sadly, is not rare: The parents of an adult woman, unhappy with her decision to leave home to live independently, file a police complaint. They charge the partner or friend of the woman with abduction, and claim that a crime has been committed against their daughter, who needs rescuing. Acting on the complaint, the police find the woman and her partner.
But from here, how the story moves forward depends completely on the police. And in a rare but heartening move, the Chennai police on Saturday decided to let the adult woman in question go back to the home of her choice with her partner.
It all started last week when Smitha*, a 26-year-old, decided to leave her parentsâ€™ house and move in with Shekhar*. Shekhar, a transgender man, is a professional based in Chennai, and the two were planning to get married after he secured his new identification papers.
The two of them were hanging out at a mall in Velachery, when two women police constables approached them, and took them to a police station in Greater Chennai.
What followed was a harrowing few hours. Smithaâ€™s parents wanted to take her back with them, whereas she wanted to go back with Shekhar. At the point, the police decided to send her to a remand home in Chennai, and asked her parents to return home.
Meanwhile, Shekhar and Smithaâ€™s friends came to know about the police action, and immediately alerted senior lawyer Sudha Ramalingam, who then contacted the Commissioner of Police, AK Vishwanathan.
â€śThe Commissioner was helpful, and assigned a DC, Shashank, to the case. The DC immediately spoke to the officers at the station, and ordered that Smitha be released from the home and allowed to go back with Shekhar,â€ť Sudha told TNM.
In spite of the police acting immediately and bringing Smitha back to the station, there was more drama in store. â€śHer brother arrived there and created a scene. Then he made the parents come to the station. Though they tried to convince the police that Smitha should be sent back with them, the police stood their ground and said she is an adult and has made her choice,â€ť Shekhar told TNM.
The police then took a written undertaking from Smitha that she is an adult and that she was willingly leaving the police station with Shekhar. The police later accompanied the couple to a safe location.
Activists and lawyers involved in the case say theyâ€™re happy that senior police officials acted responsibly in this instance, unlike previous such cases in other cities.
However, there still needs to be a lot more awareness about rights of transgender persons, and especially the NALSA judgment, say activists. In this case, the Thiruvottiyur police reportedly asked Shekhar about his relationship with Smitha repeatedly.
â€śWhile itâ€™s good that the higher level officials have taken matters forward in a progressive way, a lot of people really need to be sensitised,â€ť said Dr L Ramakrishnan, an LGBTQI+ activist. He said that both the police and the judiciary need to be sensitised about the NALSA judgment, and that they must treat all transgender persons with respect.
Read the NALSA judgment here.