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“She is free to go wherever she wants!”, Kerala HC tells parents

High court Kochi

Kerala High Court upholds adult woman’s right to decide where and how she wants to live without parental intimidation or control

By Team FI

A Habeas Corpus petition alleging that the Bangalore based NGO Sangama had forcibly detained a young woman against her will was dismissed by the Kerala High Court on August 13, 2013. It was established the young woman Sruthi had come to Bangalore for further studies and in search of employment.

Setting a precedent the Kerala High Court Judge, Justice Anthony Dominic, said that the young woman Sruthi was “free to go anywhere she wants,’’ a freedom denied to many adult women who struggle to get out of their `parents’ protection’.”

The writ petition was filed by Sruthi’s mother, who was upset over her daughter’s decision to leave home and live in Bangalore with her same sex lover Saranya. The judgment comes on the heels of the another High Court judgement on a Habeas Corpus petition filed by father of Saranya, termed as judicial intimidation by Sangama which resulted in Saranya returning to her natal home.

Sruthi and Saranya, both aged 21 years, had left their homes in Kerala and decided to come to Bangalore to live together. Compelled by their families to marry men, the duo had taken refuge with Sangama, an NGO in Bangalore. Saranya’s father filed a Habeas Corpus petition in High Court of Kerala, alleging that his daughter was kidnapped by Sruthi. The writ petition asked the court to grant him ‘parental control’ and ‘custody’ of his adult daughter.

A signature campaign organised by various individuals and organisations submitted a petition to the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court which alleged that during the court proceedings Saranya was left in the company of her family for three hours after which she appeared extremely upset. Despite filing an affidavit that she was in Bangalore by her own will, the court directed that Saranya be sent to a government shelter till the matter could be resolved. According to the petition, Saranya’s parents immediately asked the court to allow her to return home upon which Saranya agreed.

Sruthi claims that it was emotional blackmail that led to Saranya’s decision.

Sruthi’s advocates, lawyer and human rights activist, BT Venkatesh and Asha of Thrissur agreed with Sruthi. “The practice in Habeas Corpus cases in Kerala against women was always against the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights. The courts are supposed to be the guardian of these fundamental rights. But unfortunately judicial Intimidation has happened in Saranya’s case where the girl was forced to return to her parents. Fortunately, in this case, the alleged detenue Sruthi came up to the standards of the courageous women and was not overtaken or overwhelmed by the unfriendly atmosphere of the court hall which emphasizes that only courageous and empowered women can have their freedom like that of men”.

Sruthi defended Sangama as “one of the finest organisations providing protection and security to give member like me from the marginalised communities, the confidence to lead a free and independent life.”

Gurukiran Kamath, director of Sangama, who informed that their organisation has supported many lesbians and transgenders who migrated from Kerala to Bangalore in the past 10 years, said that the order of the honorable High Court re-affirms their belief that right of choice is a fundamental right that can never be violated by anyone including the state agencies.