Inquiry against psychiatrist for saying homosexuality is a disease
MUMBAI The Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), an umbrella body of nearly 8000 psychiatrists in the country, has initiated an inquiry into the assertions made by one of its members Dr Deepak Kelkar on his YouTube channel that homosexuality is a disease and that it can be cured by medicines and conversion therapy. Kelkar, a psychiatrist from Akola in Maharashtra, has 1.17 million followers on YouTube.
The five-member inquiry committee follows a complaint by Dr Prasad Dandekar, a Mumbai-based radiation oncologist and co-founder of Mumbai Seenagers, an organisation that helps members of the LGBTQ+ community that are above 55 years old to socialise in a safe environment. In his email, Dandekar wrote: “While effort is done by the LGBT task force of IPS to sensitise medical professionals and the general population about the LGBTQ+ community, a Life Fellow of IPS is actively in gross violation of the IPS’ stand on homosexuality. This is jeopardising the credibility of IPS statement and is spreading illegal, non-scientific information for financial gains.” Noted LGBTQ+ rights activist Ashok Row Kavi is a co-founder of Mumbai Seenagers.
The email adds, “The Madras High Court in June 2021 has banned the practice of conversion therapy in India... the National Medical Commission (NMC) also has slammed conversion therapy as pseudoscience and confirmed that (anyone practising it) is liable for professional misconduct.”
Kelkar did not respond to calls, text messages and emails by HT.
On his YouTube channel, launched in November 2011, Kelkar has posted more than a thousand videos in which he provides psychiatric advice on various topics. In several such videos – the latest being on January 3, 2022 – Kelkar claims that he has “cured” homosexuals, and that he prescribes erectile dysfunction tablets to men that are “attracted to other men”. In a video posted in November 2019, Kelkar claims that he is able to use hypnotherapy, visualisation techniques and self-suggestion techniques to “reorient a male homosexual” in order for him to marry a woman.
Dandekar, who, along with IPS, was instrumental in decriminalising consensual gay sex and the scrapping of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, said Kelkar is propagating non-scientific myths such as the origin of homosexuality in his videos.
Dr Amrit Pattojoshi, executive member of IPS and also its LGBTQ task force coordinator, will coordinate the investigation against Kelkar. In a telephone conversation with HT, he said, “We received the complaint from Dr Dandekar who informed us about videos uploaded on YouTube by Dr Kelkar on conversion therapy. Our president Dr NN Raju immediately decided to form an internal committee to investigate the matter.” He said no treatment or therapy promising the reversal of sexuality is scientific.
The five-member IPS committee includes Dr Tophan Pati, who will head the committee; Dr Sanjay Kumawat from Mumbai; Dr Suresh Bada Math from National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS); Dr Vishal Chhabra from New Delhi; and Dr Jyoti Shetty from Pune, who will act as convenor.
Pattajoshi said, “All forms of treatment or therapy that Dr Kelkar has mentioned as a cure for homosexuality including individual psychotherapy, behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy, pharmacotherapy, and physical therapy are unscientific. As a society we do not encourage them.”
To be sure, on September 6, 2018 the Supreme Court had struck down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised gay sex. IPS had played a key role then as it issued a statement stating homosexuality is not an illness.
Dr Avinash Desousa, president, Bombay Psychiatric Society and a member of IPS, said societies have been working hard to sensitise people on working with the LGBTQ community. “Section 377 was abolished after IPS submitted a letter to the court saying homosexuality is not an illness. We have put in a lot of effort in dealing with gender dysphoria, certification issues by holding continuing medical education sessions, and writing books on the topic. Conversion therapy is unacceptable and unscientific,” he said.
Dandekar, who is also contemplating legal action against Dr Kelkar, said the videos by Dr Kelkar on homosexuality is against the law of the country, against science and morality.
“Dr Kelkar has studied in NIMHANS and worked at PGIMER (Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research) at Chandigarh. Both are apex institutes in the country. He is an eminent psychiatrist. The videos talking about homosexuality as an illness and conversion therapy to treat it, are unscientific and damaging. The LGBTQ community living in non-metro areas are already oppressed. Parents will be flocking to him looking for treatment. He is proudly presenting success stories. It is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with at the earliest,” he said.
Dandekar also runs Health Professionals for Queer Indians (HPQI), an initiative working on sensitising medical professionals for healthcare needs of the LGBTQ+ community. He said there are a few doctors who take extreme position on homosexuality. “At HPQI, we are working on and sensitising healthcare professionals. Dr Kelkar’s blatant talk on homosexuality as illness goes against our efforts in creating awareness in society,” he said.
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