Need to ban the Conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community

Synopsis:

The recent order of the Madras high court presents an opportunity to ban the inhuman conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community. The therapy subjects them to immense physical and mental stress leading to occurrence of depression, anxiety and suicide cases amongst the community.

Background:
  • The Madras High Court called for a ban on the conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community in its recent S Sushma V. Commissioner of Police case. It also demanded legal action against those who practise it.
    • Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practise of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation. In this therapy, psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions will be carried out for the members of the LGBTQIA+ community to change them heterosexual.
    • LGBTQIA+ refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual.  
  • The order coincided with the celebration of pride month in June. Since 1969, pride month is celebrated across the globe to recognise the significance of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

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Why Conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ should be banned?
  • First, it would be a significant step in the fight against homophobia. The continued persistence of the therapy entrenches the false belief that non-heterosexual orientations are somehow unnatural or immoral.
  • Second, the move will erode the misguided and unscientific notion that sexuality can be altered through external intervention. The ban will concretise the notion that homosexuality is not a mental illness.
  • Third, the practice is already banned in many liberal countries while many more are about to ban it. 
    • For instance, the UK took a pledge to outlaw conversion therapy in May 2021. Further, the practice is already banned in Germany, Canada, Malta, Australia, and the United States.
  • Fourth, the patients are also subjected to various forms of physical and emotional abuse in the therapy.  This includes physical abuse, food deprivation, and homophobic insults.
    • A study by UN’s independent expert on gender violence and discrimination found that 98% of people undergoing conversion therapy experience lasting damage. This includes depression, anxiety, permanent physical harm and loss of faith.
    • In extreme situations, patients are unable to handle the stress and anguish which eventually induces them to end their lives. In May 2020, a 21-year queer (Anjana Harish) committed suicide in Goa post-conversion therapy.
Way Forward:
  • The Indian Government has taken some positive steps like decriminalising consensual homosexual sex under Sec-377 of the Indian Penal Code. However, there is no explicit law banning conversion therapy in India. The latest Mental Healthcare Act also implicitly allows the therapy with the patient’s consent.
  • The government must undertake the following steps to protect the LGBTQIA+ community:
    • Ban conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ involving minors as they cannot consent to any such procedure. 
    • Ban advertising conversion therapy in order to reduce its prevalence and decreasing its social acceptability.
    • Impose professional sanctions against medical practitioners who engage in conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community.

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Source: The Indian Express 

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