Madras HC seeks report from NMC, IPS over Queerphobia in MBBS course, directs curriculum update
Chennai: Highlighting the need for revamping medical courses and make them up to date, Madras High Court has sought report from 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.
The court noted that medical courses in India reaffirm queerphobia and discrimination against LGBTQIA+ communities.
It further directed the police to amend its conduct rules to ensure that activists and other members of non-governmental organisations working with LGBTQ persons are also protected from police harassment.
Justice N Anand Venkatesh pointed out that medical professionals often apply treatment methods on transgenders which are more of a "conversion therapy" camouflaged as medical and mental health support.
The bench was hearing a plea lodged by a lesbian couple who sought protection from their relatives.
On June 7, bench had issued comprehensive directions to various stakeholders, including the state government, to provide counselling, monetary support, legal assistance and protection to the LGBTQIA+ community members, who face serious discrimination in society. The Court further ordered strict action against those who attempt to cure or change sexual orientation.
The Court had also suggested that changes be made to curricula of schools and universities to educate students on understanding the LGBTQIA+ community.
The matter was taken up again on Tuesday, wherein, the court adverted to the report submitted by Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, a transwoman, 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."
"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.
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. Prescribing anti-depressants and erectile dysfunction drugs to a person and referring them into cognitive behavioural therapy as "remedy" to their gender identity and sexuality is nothing but 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, the Court added.
"It not only reflects the pre-existing harmful stigmatization of the society but also perpetuates it. Stigmatizing inaccurate and inherently unscientific terms like 'A man turned into a woman' or a 'Woman turned into a man' are based on queerphobia and cannot be tolerated or entertained any further. It is high time journalists stick to sensitive and inclusive terms on the gender spectrum," he added.
The matter will be taken up again on October 4 at 2.15 pm.
To view the official judgement, click on the link below: