Govt Safe House Meant For Interfaith, Intercaste Same-Sex Couples: Delhi HC
Delhi Govt set up a safe house for inter-faith, inter-caste couples who had runaway from home fearing family retribution.
The Delhi High Court on Friday clarified that the protection and refuge provided at the state-run safe house meant for runaway couples would also extend to same-sex couples. The high court's order came on a plea filed by a same-sex couple, who ran away from their home in Punjab after facing threats from their family.
While according protection to the couple, the high court was conscious of the fact that this was a "stop-gap" and issued notice to the couples' families seeking their replies. The matter will now be heard on August 2.
The high court was referring to the safe house the Delhi government operationalised in September 2020 in accordance with the Supreme Court's 2018 Shakti Vahini verdict that mandated protection to inter-faith couples. The verdict had issued guidelines which included the creation of special cells, a helpline and safe houses for such couples.
What is a safe house?
The state government operationalised a safe house meant to shelter runaway couples in accordance with the top court's 2018 verdict. The safe house comprises of two rooms, a toilet and a kitchen. It can accommodate three couples (adults, no minors) who face opposition from their families, local community or khaps.
Couples in distress can call the 24/7 toll-free women's helpline at 181 where they can get the necessary advise or assistance by the special cell created for this purpose. At the safe house, couples will get boarding, lodging, counselling, legal aid, police security and limited financial aid. The couples may sometimes require clothing as they come without any luggage, this too is provided to them.
Last month, the Delhi government urged the police to provide round-the-clock protection to couples living at the safe house after the staff there flagged threats from families of the couples seeking shelter.
Singh has expressed concern over the revelation of the location of the safe house by several media houses. "The current location of the safe house was meant to be a secret to protect the couples from their families who may land up there," advocate Utkarsh Singh said. Singh has represented several couples, mostly out of state, in the high court.
Since September 2020, at least 10 couples have found shelter in the Delhi safe house. "Many out-of-state couples have found refuge in Delhi's safe house because none of the other states has fully complied with the supreme court's guidelines," Singh added.
Right of an adult to choose one's life partner is above "class honour": Supreme Court
In March 2018, the Supreme Court had ruled that any interference by the 'Khap panchayat' in a marriage between two consenting adults is absolutely illegal. The top court had also issued detailed guidelines to prevent honour killings. Remedial and punitive measures were detailed as well.
The court's verdict came on a 2010 plea filed by NGO Shakti Vahini which sought directions to curb honour killings.
One of the guidelines included the setting up of safe houses.
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