Transwoman is also a bride under Hindu Marriage Act, says HC

An upward revision of marriageable age for women would come in the backdrop of a serious fight against child marriage that still haunts corners of the country. Photo: Representative image

In an important ruling, the Madras High Court bench here has held that as per the Hindu Marriage Act, a transsexual is also a ‘bride’ and the term would not necessarily refer only to a woman.

Justice GR Swaminathan gave the ruling on a petition filed by a man and a transwoman who approached the court after officials refused to register their marriage held in Tuticorin October, 2018.

Allowing the petition on Monday (April 23), he directed the Registration Department officials to register the marriage of the petitioners. Voicing concern over the plight of transgender people, who, he said, suffered from stigma and are forced to leave their homes, the judge directed the Tamil Nadu government to issue an order banning sex reassignment surgeries on inter-sex infants and children.

Quoting from epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana, as well as from Supreme Court rulings, the judge said the word ‘bride’ could not have a static or immutable meaning and would have to include a transwoman. He rejected the contention of the government advocate that the registrar of marriage had powers to refuse the registration as the couple did not meet the statutory requirement under the Hindu Marriage Act, as the term ‘bride’ could only refer to a ‘woman on the marriage day’.

The judge said the apex court had held that transgender persons had the right to decide their self-identified gender. Justice Swaminathan said it was the responsibility of the government to launch a sustained awareness campaign and encourage parents not to see the birth of an inter-sex child as a matter of embarrassment or shame.

“Any inter-sex child is entitled to stay within the fold of its family. The running away to the margins and beyond is a fatal journey and must be arrested. Time has come when they should be brought to the mainstream,” he said. In the present case, the petitioners were an inter-caste couple and eligible for financial incentives under the Dr Ambedkar scheme for social integration, he said.