Medical courses in India reaffirm queerphobia and discrimination against LGBTQIA+ communities, the Madras High Court observed on Tuesday, while calling for necessary changes to the medical curriculum.
Justice N Anand Venkatesh said that various treatment methods adopted by medical professionals with respect to transgender persons are nothing but forms of "conversion therapy" camouflaged as medical and mental health support.
"This lack of knowledge on the part of the concerned psychiatrist is directly attributable to the course that was undergone by him and which is yet to be revamped and brought up to date....Queerphobia is being reaffirmed as legitimate throughout the education of a doctor who might go on to become a psychiatrist or any physician who might be approached by a person from the community," the Court observed.
The Court had on June 7, had suggested measures to sensitise society and various branches of the State including the police and the judiciary to remove prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community and to ensure that they are brought into the mainstream of society.
To this end, the Court had also suggested that changes be made to curricula of schools and universities to educate students on understanding the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Court further ordered strict action against those found to be indulging in attempts to cure/change sexual orientation.
When the matter was heard on Tuesday, the Court adverted to the report submitted by Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, which stated that currently, for undergraduate students studying Forensic Medicine as part of the MBBS course, the medical curriculum describes sodomy, lesbianism and oral sex as sexual offences, and 'transvestism' (cross-dressing) as a 'sexual perversion'.
"As important as it is for an advocate or a judge to take up a client’s case or to decide the case, as the case may be without being personally judgemental about them, it is equally or even more important for a professional from the medical and mental health professionals’ fraternity to be non-judgemental and free of moral or personal prejudices about their patient’s or client’s identity on the gender spectrum or their sexuality," the Court opined.
Knowledge about a patient’s gender identity and sexuality may be of interest to a doctor, physician or a mental health professional if it is pertinent in cracking the course of treatment. But the course of treatment cannot be one which aims to “cure” such gender identity or sexuality itself, the Court underscored.
In this regard, the Court also referred to an example of a prescription that was given by a psychiatrist to a gay man. The doctor had prescribed two medicines, namely Stimuli Capsule and Fluoxet capsule for 15 days. That apart, the doctor had also referred the concerned person to a psychotherapist for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
"This sample case clearly exhibits the ignorance on the part of the Doctor who is not even aware that there is no “cure” for gender identity. These are ways and means adopted by professionals under the guise of conversion therapy," the order said.
Prescribing anti-depressants and erectile dysfunction drugs to a person and referring them to cognitive behavioural therapy as a “remedy” to their gender identity and sexuality is nothing but conversion “therapy” camouflaged as medical and mental health support, the Court reiterated.
This lack of knowledge on the part of the concerned psychiatrist is directly attributable to the course that was undergone by him and which is yet to be revamped and brought up to date, the Court added.
The Court, therefore, proceeded to direct the Additional Solicitor General to bring these issues to the attention of National Medical Commission and Indian Psychiatric Society and to direct them to file a report as to how they are going to handle this issue in the future by carrying out necessary changes in the curriculum.