After Madras HC now Kerala HC directs NMC to Review Queerphobia text in MBBS course
Ernakulam: The Kerala High Court has recently directed the National Medical Commission (NMC) and its Undergraduate Medical Education Board to take action regarding a representation made by two NGOs who sought removal of discriminatory and inhuman references made against the LGBTQIA+ community in the MBBS textbooks.
The High Court bench comprising of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly has further directed the Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS) to provide its remarks and views with respect to the grievances of the petitioners as mentioned in the petition and send the same to the UG medical education board. The board has been directed to complete the exercise within 8 weeks of time.
Such observations came after two NGOs appealed before the High Court organizations against the discriminatory remarks against LGBTQ community and inhuman references used in the medical textbooks prescribed for medical courses in India.
Recently, the Madras High Court had also highlighted the need for revamping medical courses and make them up-to-date. Medical Dialogues had recently reported that the Madras HC had sought a report from the National Medical Commission (NMC), and the Indian Psychiatric Society on how will they handle the issue of queerphobia among medical professionals and conversion therapies employed by them due to lack of knowledge and sensitivity about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community.
Such directions were given by the Court after it had noted that medical courses in India reaffirm queerphobia and discrimination against LGBTQIA+ communities.
Now, a similar petition was filed before the Kerala High Court and the petitioner NGOs submitted before the court that such offensive remarks stereotypes LGBTQ community's sexual or gender identities as an offence, mental disorder or perversion.
Besides, the petitioners contended that such references are made in the text books despite the fact that the said community's rights are recognized by the Supreme Court of India as the court had decriminalized homosexual sex between consenting adults.
Thus, such derogatory remarks infringes the rights of the community members to have a dignified life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and discriminates the said community from the social order, thereby violating Article 14 of the Constitution of India, stated the petition.
"The medical text books gives a false narration of true state of affairs of queer community and provides unscientific data and contains inhuman, derogatory remarks against the transgender community and sexual minorities. Such remarks creates a discriminatory attitude towards the queer community. The graveness of discrimination is such that even this discrimination is visible within the four walls of the class room," the petition read.
Apart from this, the petitioners also mentioned that during their meetings with the volunteers of queer community who are pursuing UG medical education they have come to know about their pain and agony of studying the textbooks which stereotypes their sexual and gender identities.
"While so, the students had pointed out that the medical textbooks studied by them are highly queer phobic. They also pointed out the instances wherein they were victimized and bullied by peer groups for expressing their gender or sexual orientations," stated the petitioners.
"Gender identity, lies at the core of one's personal identity, gender expression and presentation and, therefore, it is protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The gender identity is recognised as a fundamental right in National Legal Services Authority v Union of India. Medical texts which treats the gender identity of the Queer Community as inhuman, and with adverse remark will send a wrong message to the public at large and will result in perpetual denial of the rights of the queer community," the plea pointed out.
Further referring to the Supreme Court judgment which legalized consensual homosexuality, the petition mentioned, "The apex court has opined that classifying sexual offenses as 'natural' and 'unnatural' is both absurd & legally invalid and instead rightly upheld the importance of mutual consent in determining whether a sexual activity amounts to criminal offence or not. While the apex court has clearly accepted homosexuality as a sexual orientation based on the scientific as well as legal analysis, potraying the same as a sexual disorder or perversion is discriminatory."
The plea also pointed out that the Apex Court in NALSA judgment had underlined that the Transgender people face discrimination especially in the field of health care. "It is therefore important to educate medical students to effectively access and manage patients without any prejudices and discrimination. Failing so the standard of medical education will deprecate," the petitioners pointed out.
So, alleging discrimination against the transgender community, the petition sought direction to the apex medical body, the National Medical Commission (NMC), and Under-Graduate Medical Education Board to revise the concerned textbooks and curriculum and thereby remove the unscientific data that contains inhuman, derogatory remarks against the transgender community and sexual minorities.
After listening to the contentions, the High Court bench directed the UnderGraduate Medical Education Board, New Delhi, to act on a representation made by the two NGOs who filed the petition and sought removal of the queer-phobic contents from the medical text books.
Before doing so, the Under-Graduate Medical Education Board, New Delhi was also directed to obtain the remarks and views of the Kerala University of Health Sciences. "Such exercise shall be done within 8 weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment," clarified the court.
Further the bench directed the KUHS to provide its remarks and views in regard to the averments made in the petition and send the same to UG medical education board, so that it may pass appropriate orders within the time.
To read the court order, click on the link below.