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Amend discriminatory info on LGBTQIA+: NMC to institutes

By, New Delhi
Oct 14, 2021 12:35 PM IST

The advisory referred to a Madras high court judgment last month that said “queerphobia” – prejudicial and abusive attitudes and behavior towards the community – was rampant in medical education.

Medical institutions shouldn’t teach students in a way that is derogatory or insulting to the LGBTQIA+ people and authors of medical textbooks should amend all unscientific and discriminatory information about the community, India’s apex medical regulatory body said on Wednesday.

In an advisory, the National Medical Commission (NMC) said various medical textbooks, especially those in forensic medicine, toxicology and psychiatry contain unscientific and derogatory remarks against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual people. (HT PHOTO)
In an advisory, the National Medical Commission (NMC) said various medical textbooks, especially those in forensic medicine, toxicology and psychiatry contain unscientific and derogatory remarks against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual people. (HT PHOTO)

In an advisory, the National Medical Commission (NMC) said various medical textbooks, especially those in forensic medicine, toxicology and psychiatry contain unscientific and derogatory remarks against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual people.

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“All medical universities, colleges, institutions are requested not to approve books as recommended…if the books have unscientific, derogatory and discriminatory information about virginity, LGBTQIA+ community and homosexuals,” said the advisory, signed by NMC secretary Dr Anjula Jain.

The advisory referred to a Madras high court judgment last month that said “queerphobia” – prejudicial and abusive attitudes and behavior towards the community – was rampant in medical education.

The court referred to a report by Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju who stated that the curriculum of undergraduate forensic medicine described “sodomy”, “lesbianism” and “oral sex” as sexual offences, and “transvestism” (cross-dressing) as a “sexual perversion”.

“The NMC’s advisory based on the Madras HC’s verdict is a long-awaited and welcome step in India’s medical history. I applaud it with cautious optimism, and can only hope that authors and institutions across the country abide by the apex med-ed body,” Dr Gummaraju said.

The NMC advisory asked the guidelines to be strictly applied by the government and authorities.

“All medical universities, colleges, institutions are requested that while teaching UG and PG student, where the issue of gender or similar kind arise, the mention of clinical history or complaints or signs or symptoms, examination findings or history about nomenclature shall not be taught in such a way that it becomes/perceived in any way derogatory/discriminatory/insulting to LGBTQIA+ community,” the document read.

Experts hailed the move. “Stigmatised, pathologised contents in medical textbooks are getting removed finally. I see the next generation of medical professionals is knowledgeable, wise, compassionate, and ethical in their approach to their patients from the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Dr Sameera Jahagirdar, a senior clinical fellow at Barts Health NHS Trust in the UK.

Research by her, Dr L Ramakrishnan of SAATHII, an NGO, and others found that some authors called lesbians “mental degenerates or those who suffer from nymphomania. “Lesbians who are morbidly jealous of one another, when rejected may commit homicide, suicide or both,” read an excerpt from a forensic medicine and toxicology book.

Other books listed homosexuality as a disorder and even mentioned conversion therapy, which is banned in several countries and was harshly criticised by the Madras high court.

“This is a very encouraging development and we eagerly await its implementation by public and private medical colleges across the country. The issue is, however, not limited to Forensic Medicine and Psychiatry, but extends to other fields such as Gynecology, Pediatrics, and General Medicine,” said Dr Ramakrishnan.

He pointed out that the ‘competency-based curriculum’ of the erstwhile Medical Council of India (2018-2019) contained antiquated terms like sodomy and gender identity disorder. “We hope the NMC will also address content in these other disciplines, and take a stand against conversion therapy.”

The landmark Madras HC order had come on a petition by two students from Tamil Nadu who approached the court to seek protection from their families and the police. In response, the HC issued instructions to a slew of state and central agencies to frame guidelines that recognise the rights of the community.

“The case brought to the court’s attention about wrong and unscientific information in medical textbooks, including conversion therapy. It is a welcome step and another instance where courts have led the way,” said Manuraj S, the petitioners’ lawyer.

The judge, N Anand Venkatesh, even undertook counselling to understand the identity and vulnerabilities of the petitioners, and invited Dr Gummaraju to write a report on the issue.

“Originally, I’d only sought to impart basic gender/sexuality literacy to justice Venkatesh. However, I believed my report would be incomplete without details of the hopelessly transphobic and queerphobic chapters in the Indian medical syllabus that normalise horrific violence and discrimination at the hands of doctors,” said Dr Gummaraju.

She said these textbooks invalidated her existence and that of thousands of other queer and trans medical students and patients alike. “Now, there is something to slap across the faces of doctors who have practiced discrimination and called it ‘medicine’,” she added.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Dhrubo works as an edit resource and writes at the intersection of caste, gender, sexuality and politics. Formerly trained in Physics, abandoned a study of the stars for the glitter of journalism. Fish out of digital water.

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