Stop considering homosexuality as an illness: Psychiatric society to members
For the first time, the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), the country’s largest body of mental health professionals, has announced its official stance on homosexuality, saying that members should ‘stop considering homosexuality as an illness’.
In 2016, the IPS set up a group to deal with specific issues of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community, however it is only now that the organisation made an official statement on homosexuality. The announcement is important because some psychiatrists have been practising what is called ‘conversion therapies’ to ‘cure’ patients of homosexuality. IPS has about 3,000 members.
Dr Ajit Bhide, president, IPS, in a video on social media, said, “It is a step in the right direction ... Some individuals are just not cut out to be heterosexuals and we don’t need to castigate them, we don’t need to punish them, we don’t need to ostracise them.”
“...Whatever your sexual orientation, whatever your sexual preference, as long as there is no other party being hurt, an individual should be allowed to practice,” he said.
Dr Kersi Chavda, chairperson of the IPS taskforce that deals with emotional issues of the LGBTQ, said, “This statement is our official stand on homosexuality, that it not a disease and should not treated like one. This is the first time we have released an official stand.”
Doctors and LGBTQ activists have welcomed the statement and are hopeful that it will prevent doctors from practising ‘conversion therapies’.
“This is for the first time IPS has publically made a categorical statement on its take on homosexuality. Now, they must inform all IPS members in strictest possible terms to stop practising conversion therapies...” said Dr Bhooshan Shukla, a Pune based psychiatrist.
The legal battle against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalises any form of sexual intercourse that is non-penile vaginal, irrespective of whether it is consensual or not, is nearly two decades old.
A petition filed in the Delhi high court in 2001 by the Naz Foundation, an NGO working to prevent HIV/AIDS, eventually led to the reading down of the section in 2009, such that it did not apply to consenting adults. The verdict was challenged by organisations representing Hindus, Christians and Muslims and in 2013 the Supreme Court reversed the Delhi high court judgment. This was challenged and multiple curative petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court.
Vikram Doctor, an activist associated with a Mumbai-based LGBT support group, said, “It should have been done 20 years, but I am glad they have now come up with it now. It (the IPS statement) will be an effective argument in the cour to challenge bodies that support criminalisation of homosexuality based on religious point of views.”