Recently, the National Medical Commission (NMC), issued a letter to all State Medical Councils banning conversion therapy for the LGBTQIA+ community and calling it professional misconduct. NMC is India’s apex regulatory body of medical professionals.

While also empowering state bodies to take disciplinary action against medical professionals who violate the guideline, the NMC stated that it was following a Madras High Court (HC) directive.


What is ‘conversion therapy’?

  • Conversion or reparative therapy is an intervention aimed at changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual.
  • This occurs through the use of psychiatric/mental treatment, medicines, exorcism and even violence, with the goal of transforming the individual into a heterosexual.
  • Conversion therapy also includes efforts to transform the basic identity of young people whose gender identity contradicts their sex anatomy.


Risk associated

  • According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), conversion therapies are based on the incorrect notion that homosexuality and various gender identities are unhealthy.
  • Often, the therapy is provided by quacks (an unqualified person who claims medical knowledge or skills) with no experience dealing with the issue.
  • It runs the danger of developing or exacerbating mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and drug usage, which can lead to suicide.


Indian judiciary on conversion therapy

  • In 2022, the Madras HC directed NMC to issue an official notice under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquettes, and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, listing conversion therapy as a wrong.
  • The case was being heard in court involving a same-sex couple who wanted police protection from their parents.
  • In the meanwhile, the HC issued a set of temporary rules for police, activists, Union and State Social Welfare Ministries and the NMC to guarantee their safety and security to pursue a life chosen by them.
  • The judgement barred any attempt to cure or change the sexual orientation of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, or of any other orientation) people through medical means.
  • It asked authorities to take action against professionals (including the revocation of a medical license) involved in any form or manner of conversion therapy.


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.
  • The court said the community should be provided with legal assistance by the District Legal Services Authority in coordination with law enforcement agencies.
  • The court ordered 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 stated that it was critical to hold sensitisation programs in order to fully understand the community and its needs.


How to change the mindset?

  • According to experts, schools and colleges must affect changes in curricula for a better understanding of the community.
  • Gender-neutral restrooms should be compulsory in educational institutes and other places.
  • Parents must be sensitised as well, because the initial point of misunderstanding and abuse frequently occurs at home, with teenagers being forced to choose conversion therapies.
  • Health specialists point out that even individuals who choose sex reassignment surgery need proper counselling, such as treatment before and after the procedure, etc.


LGBT rights in India

  • There are approximately 480,000 transgender people in India as per Census 2011.
  • Though Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in India have been evolving rapidly in recent years, they still face social and legal difficulties not experienced by non-LGBT persons.
  • The country has repealed or modified or read down its colonial-era laws (for example, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)) that directly discriminated against homosexual and transgender identities.
    • In 2018, in the landmark decision of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, the SC decriminalised consensual homosexual intercourse by reading down Section 377 of the IPC.
  • In this line, the Constitution of India under Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) guarantees fundamental right and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.