Shivy, a transgender and non-resident Indian has been illegally confined by his family and it has raised the question of whether the family could be considered to be a safe place, especially for those who belong to the "queer" community.
The 19-year-old Shivani Bhat, who prefers to be addressed as Shivy, has been living in the US since the age of three. A neurobiology student at the University of California, Shivy was illegally confined at his grandparents' home in Agra when he came to visit them with his parents in July, earlier this year.
"My family is not a safe place for me. They took away my passport, my green card and all my documents and was confined illegally. I don't know if I can trust them," Shivy said at a press conference held by Nazariya, a queer feminist group, who came to Shivy's rescue.
Shivy said he was subjected to domestic abuse even at his California home, and was later forced to remain in Agra against his will. In the first week of September, he was forced to marry a boy of his parents' choice, Shivy said, adding that he was also forced to enroll at Dayalbagh Educational Institute in Agra. With the help of Nazariya, he managed to leave his grandparents' home in Agra for Delhi, an incident which forced his parents to file a missing person's complaint with Uttar Pradesh Police. Rituparna Borah from Nazariya said that police harassed and threatened the activists who helped Shivy by entering their homes without search warrants on September 21. On Tuesday, Delhi High Court Judge Siddharth Mridul granted Shivy and the activists protection from police harassment.
Lesley Esteves, a queer rights activist said, "The police action was nothing more than an attempt by the family to cut off Shivy's support system in India." He said families can expect state machinery to support them because of the deep-rooted societal homophobia and transphobia, which treats LGBT as not entitled to equal rights.
A senior advocate of Supreme Court, Rebecca John, who was also at the conference, said, "Indian constitution protects all citizens from discrimination irrespective of caste, gender, creed or sex."
John added that the interim order given by the high court protecting Shivy's rights only furthered the constitutional position on the matter. State or its agencies should never interfere with individual liberties, even at the behest of families of the citizens. Shivy said he had a strong support from the LGBT community in the US, and that he would work his way through college, and support himself thereafter.