People participate in the LGBT pride march in Bangalore, India in December 2020. Hundreds of LGBTQ people and their supporters waved flags, beat drums and danced to local tunes during the Bengaluru Namma pride march . They called for an end to violence and oppression based on gender identity and sexual orientation and to end the decriminalization of gender. EFE / EPA / JAGADEESH NV
The Madras High Court, in its June 2021 judgment, banned the practice of “conversion therapy” in India, bringing protective measures to LGBTQIA + people in the country. The case concerns a lesbian couple who fled their home after their parents intimidated them over their relationship. The families approached law enforcement authorities and filed missing persons complaints, after which the couple petitioned the court for protection from their family’s harassment and police questioning.
To protect the couple’s right to dignity, life, privacy and freedom of choice under the Indian constitution, the High Court in S. Sushma v. Police Commissioner ordered a ban on the practice of conversion therapy and “any attempts to medically cure or change the sexual orientation of LGBTIQA + people to heterosexuals, or the gender identity of transgender people to cisgender”. In addition, the court recommended certain guidelines, ensuring the protection of the privacy and constitutional rights of LGBTQIA + people.
In India, homosexuality was decriminalized in the Navtej Singh Johar case in 2018. However, the general perception towards the LGBTQIA + community in the country has not been progressive. Non-binary gender identities and queer sexual orientations are still viewed as a Western evil by a substantial proportion of Indian society. Immoral and dangerous practices like “conversion therapy” are still practiced under the guise of curing “queer sexuality”.
Conversion therapy, a pseudo-scientific therapy concept that characterizes a number of harmful and discredited treatments intended to change a person’s sexual orientation from lesbian, gay or bisexual to straight, or their gender identity to transgender or non-binary to cisgender, is one of the most sordid atrocities experienced by the LGBTQIA + community. When someone in this community does not fit into what others see as normative or binary, they are often repressed by such practices.
Conversion therapy involves spiritual intervention through religious institutions, hormone or electroconvulsive therapy, with more severe approaches such as exorcisms, physical assault, “corrective rape” and food suppression. According to experts, conversion therapy can have serious consequences for those exposed, including an increased risk of self-harm, depression and suicidal ideation, as well as physical and mental trauma.
Subsequently, due to persistent prejudice, discrimination and societal antagonism towards LGBTQIA + people, conversion therapy has been denounced by all major medical and mental health institutions for years.
Adopting strict legislation would constitute a positive right to support the community and provide equal opportunities to live a life with dignity.
But the practice of treating homosexuality continues to breathe in India. One of those victims of the “cure for homosexuality” is Anjana Hareesh, a 21-year-old student who allegedly committed suicide after her family forced her to undergo “conversion therapy” for months after revealing his bisexuality. Like Hareesh, many in the LGBTQIA + community have claimed to be victims of conversion therapy, which is constantly performed by cosmic healers and physicians, emphasizing the interrelation of religion and science with therapy. conversion.
Family members often perpetuate such abuses against LGBTQIA + people, forcing them to abandon their own homes. They are physically and psychologically harassed in public spaces, preventing them from leading a life of dignity. These physical and psychological atrocities stem from sociocultural practices, which include a mixture of discrimination and heteronormative paradigms that make queer sexuality an “immoral” representation in Indian society. This contributes to their marginalization, resulting in homosexuality being classified as a treatable mental disorder.
Despite the High Court ruling, there is currently no legislation in India expressly prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy. Even though the Mental Health Care Act 2017 explicitly states that no medical treatment can be undertaken without the consent of the patient, there is a high likelihood that victims will give consent to doctors due to an implicit assumption that ‘they have institutionalized regarding their so-called’ anomalies. ‘. As a result, doctors continue to practice life-threatening conversion therapy. While the mental health care law can be used to provide limited protections for the LGBTQIA + community, a separate law is essential to eradicate this heinous practice completely. Adopting strict legislation would constitute a positive right to support the community and provide equal opportunities to live a life with dignity.
The decriminalization of homosexuality by the Supreme Court was virtually the very first step towards the socialization of homosexuality in Indian society, but passing laws is a long and drawn out process. The right to a life of dignity, as well as the freedom to make one’s own decisions and individual autonomy, are fundamental to living a meaningful life. The practice of conversion therapy against individuals is a violation of the essence of informed consent, as the Supreme Court of India found in Samira Kohli and Common Cause, that “such coercive therapy is against »the privacy and bodily integrity of the individual, and is a violation of the right to privacy.
While India’s initiatives to recognize the LGBTQIA + community with dignity, defend their rights, and integrate them into the mainstream social structure are remarkable, practices like conversion therapy not only amplify the social stigma of sexual diversity, but aggravate it. also their preconception of discrimination and the vigorous implementation of such therapies, which is contrary to the fundamental rights of the citizen.
Without a doubt, the Madras High Court’s rationale in this judgment is a progressive achievement for the queer community. However, the decision of the High Court does not affect the whole country but only the courts under its jurisdiction. The prerequisite for introducing anti-conversion therapy legislation, decriminalizing the practice, and protecting the privacy and dignity of the queer community is fundamental to upholding judgment and ending prejudice against LGBTQIA + people.