Ban on Conversion Therapy for the LGBTQIA+ Community


    In Context

    • Recently, the National Medical Commission (NMC), the apex regulatory body of medical professionals in India, has written to all State Medical Councils, banning conversion therapy.

    More about the news

    • The NMC is following a Madras High Court directive to issue an official notification listing conversion therapy as wrong, under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquettes and Ethics) Regulations, 2002.
    • The National Medical Commission (NMC) has put a ban calling conversion therapy “professional misconduct”.
      • NMC also empowered the State bodies to take disciplinary action against medical professionals who breach the guideline. 

    The Madras High Court ruling

    • The ruling prohibited any attempt to medically “cure” or change the sexual orientation of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or of any other orientation) people. 
    • It urged the authorities to take action against “professionals involving themselves in any form or method of conversion therapy,” which could include the withdrawal of licence to practice medicine.

    What is conversion therapy?

    • Conversion or reparative therapy is an intervention aimed at changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual. 
      • It uses either psychiatric treatment, drugs, exorcism and even violence, with the aim being to make the individual a heterosexual
    • The conversion therapy umbrella also includes efforts to change the core identity of youth whose gender identity is incongruent with their sex anatomy. 

    Risks of conversion therapy 

    • Targeting youth:
      • “Reparative” or “conversion” therapy is a dangerous practice that targets LGBTQ youth and seeks to change their sexual or gender identities.
    • Ineffectiveness:
      • There is a scientific consensus that conversion therapy is ineffective at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and that it frequently causes significant, long-term psychological harm in individuals who undergo it.
      • According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), the interventions under conversion therapy are provided under the false premise that homosexuality and diverse gender identities are pathological. 
        • “They are not; the absence of pathology means there is no need for conversion or any other like intervention.” 
    • Health hazards:
      • Further, according to AACAP and other health experts, conversion therapy poses the risk of causing or exacerbating mental health conditions, like anxiety, stress and drug use which sometimes even lead to suicide.

    Challenges faced by Transgender Community

    • Discrimination and ostracisation:
      • They face discrimination in employment, educational institutes, and within families which severely affects their overall wellbeing.
    • Identity crisis:
      • They are often forced to identify with a gender with which they are not associated at the workplace despite the government passing the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 which allows the community the right to self-perceived gender identity.
    • Social Stigma:
      • They often face difficulty in property inheritance or child adoption. Because of being socially ostracised, they are compelled to take up menial jobs despite good qualifications or forced into sex work.
    • Unemployment:
      • The community has limited avenues of employment and faces severe discrimination at work because of the associated social stigma.
    • Lack of public amenities:
      • They face issues with the accessibility of public toilets and public spaces. They often face problems in prisons, hospitals and schools.

    Initiatives for Transgender Persons in India:

    • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019:
      • The law passed by the Parliament aims to end discrimination against transgender persons in accessing education, employment and healthcare and recognise the right to self-perceived gender identity.
    • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020: 
      • It has been framed by the government to give effect to the provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
    • National Council for Transgender Persons: 
      • In pursuance of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, the National Council for Transgender Persons has been constituted to advise the Central Government on the formulation and evaluation of policies, programmes, legislation and projects for the welfare of the transgender community.
    • Reservation for the transgender community: 
      • The Union government is planning to bring reservations for the community under the OBC category in employment.
    • National Portal for Transgender Persons:
      • It is a portal by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment which assists persons of the transgender community in applying for a Certificate and Identity card digitally from anywhere in the country.
      • Through the Portal, they can monitor the status of their application which ensures transparency in the process.
    • Garima Greh:
      • The scheme aims to provide shelter to Transgender persons, with basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and recreational facilities.
      • Besides, it will provide support for the capacity-building/skill development of persons in the Community, which will enable them to lead a life of dignity and respect.

    Way Ahead

    • All LGBTQA+ people deserve to be protected from the lifelong damage inflicted by conversion therapy. 
    • Experts say schools and colleges must effect changes in curricula for a better understanding of the community. 
    • Parents too need to be sensitised, because the first point of misunderstanding and abuse often begins at home, with teenagers being forced to opt for “conversion” therapies. 
    • Health professionals point out that even adults opting for sex reassignment surgeries need to get proper guidance like therapy pre and post operation; for an ordinary citizen, the cost too can be prohibitive.

    Global scenario on Conversion Therapy 

    • Across the world, many countries already have some form of National ban on conversion therapy.
    • Brazil:
      • Starting in 1999, Brazil introduced a trailblazing ban on conversion therapy relating to sexual orientation – the first conversion therapy ban in the world.
    • Ecuador & Malta:
      • Several countries have introduced criminal bans for those found to be practising conversion therapy, including Ecuador in 2014 and Malta in 2016.
    • Germany:
      • In 2020, Germany banned conversion therapy for minors, as well as protecting adults undergoing conversion therapy because of force, fraud or pressure.
    • USA:
      • Since 2013, bans of varying forms have been implemented across 20 states, two territories, and multiple local counties or municipalities in the United States.
    • China, India & South Africa:
      • In China, India, and South Africa case law has found conversion therapy to be unlawful.

    Source: TH