Step towards more LGBTQIA+ affirmative medical curriculum doesn’t go far enough

Synopsis: NMC guidelines should consider a larger picture into account and draft the changes accordingly in the medical education curriculum.


Recently National Medical Commission (NMC) has issued an advisory to all medical universities and colleges. It asked them to bring changes in the teaching methods and in the competency-based medical education (CBME) curriculum. It also asked to opt for methods that are not derogatory to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Why do the NMC issue guidelines?

The NMC’s notification comes against the backdrop of several recent developments. A petition has been filed in the Madras High Court by a lesbian couple whose relationship was being opposed by their parents. In another incident, Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, a trans doctor, called out the rampant queerphobia in medical education.

Read moreMadras High Court guidelines for mainstreaming LGBTIQA+ community

Kerala High Court also passed an order asking for the removal of discriminatory and inhuman references to LGBTQIA+ people from MBBS textbooks. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 also aims towards the Social, economic and educational empowerment of transgender persons.

What is missing in the NMC guidelines?

Although the NMC advisory mentions necessary changes in the competencies of its CBME curriculum, there are no specifications on what these changes are. CBME curriculum itself mentions queerphobic things that are to be taught to students.

For example, being transgender, which is a normal variation, is called a disorder. Sodomy and lesbianism are called sexual offences, even though the Supreme Court has struck down Section 377.

This would also make future Indian doctors less empathetic in treating queer patients. NMC, by putting the onus on medical colleges and authors of books, is simply passing the responsibility.

Read moreNeed to ban the Conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community
Why the NMC guidelines alone is not sufficient?

In India, the medical syllabus focussed only on the binary of male and female, heterosexuality and cis-gendered lives. It excludes homosexuality, gender non-binary, queerphobic content and transgender issues. Even CBME curriculum 2019, continues to include a queerphobic syllabus.

There is rampant queerphobia prevalent in society. This scares LGBTQIA+ students in medical colleges and even queer faculty members. This in turn leads to practitioners staying away from queer-affirmative medicine, as queer patients hesitate to approach any professional.

What the NMC should do?

It should start by recognizing the flaws in its own CBME curriculum and need to make the necessary changes. Specific guidelines should be made to make healthcare queer-affirmative. The changes should not only be limited to forensic medicine and psychiatry, but also to other subjects also.

Further, the participation of different stakeholders is required towards the development of a queer-affirmative curriculum.

Source: This post is based on the article “Step towards more LGBTQIA+ affirmative medical curriculum doesn’t go far enough” published in the Indian Express on 25th October 2021.

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