From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Sexual orientation as medical condition
The National Medical Commission (NMC), the apex regulatory body of medical professionals in India, has written to all State Medical Councils, banning sexual conversion therapy and calling it a “professional misconduct”.
What is the news?
- The NMC has empowered the State bodies to take disciplinary action against medical professionals who breach the guideline.
- The NMC was following a Madras High Court directive to issue an official notification listing conversion therapy as a wrong, under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquettes and Ethics) Regulations, 2002.
What is Sexual 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.
- Often, the therapy is offered by quacks with little expertise in dealing with the issue.
- As late as 2018, medical books listed homosexuality and lesbianism as a “perversion”.
What are the risks?
- 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.
- Conversion therapy poses the risk of causing or exacerbating mental health conditions, like anxiety, stress and drug use which sometimes even lead to suicide.
What is the role of the Madras High Court in the ban?
On June 7, 2021, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court gave a landmark ruling on a case he was hearing about the ordeal of a same-sex couple who sought police protection from their parents.
- Pending adequate legislation more protective of the community, Justice Venkatesh issued a slew of interim guidelines.
- It aimed for the police, activists, Union and State Social Welfare Ministries, and the National Medical Commission to ensure their safety and security to lead a life chosen by them.
- 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.
- On July 8, 2022, the court gave an order to the NMC directing it to issue necessary official notification by enlisting ‘Conversion Therapy’ as a professional misconduct.
What were some of the other guidelines issued by the court?
- The court asked the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment to draw up a list of NGOs and other groups which could handle the issues faced by the community, and gave it a time of 8 weeks from the date of the order.
- The court said the community should be provided with legal assistance by the District Legal Services Authority in coordination with law enforcement agencies.
- It asked agencies to follow the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020, and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, in letter and spirit.
- The court said it was imperative to hold sensitisation programmes for an all-out effort to understand the community and its needs.
- Schools and colleges must effect changes in curricula for a better understanding of the community.
- People of a different sexual orientation or gender identity often narrate harrowing tales of bullying, discrimination, stigma and ostracization.
- Gender-neutral restrooms should be compulsory in educational institutes and other places.
- 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.
Back2Basics: Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019: Key Features
- The act defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth.
- It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.
Prohibition against discrimination
- It prohibits the discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to education, employment, healthcare, access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public.
- Every transgender person shall have a right to reside and be included in his household.
- No government or private entity can discriminate against a transgender person in employment matters, including recruitment, and promotion.
- A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for a certificate of identity, indicating the gender as ‘transgender’.
- Educational institutions funded or recognised by the relevant government shall provide inclusive facilities for transgender persons, without discrimination.
- The government must provide health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centres, and sex reassignment surgeries.
- The National Council for Transgender persons (NCT) chaired by Union Minister for Social Justice, will advise the central government as well as monitor the impact of policies with respect to transgender persons.
- It will also redress the grievances of transgender persons.
- The Bill imposes penalties for the offences against transgender persons like bonded labour, denial of use of public places, removal from household & village and physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse.