October 4, 2022

Conversion Therapy: Love does not need a cure

This article is written by Bhawna Tuteja, she is 2nd year law student at Department of laws, Panjab University, Chandigarh.

“Sit up Straight” How Dare You?!! I will sit as gay as I please!

Love is the most precious feeling in the world. It comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes. Once in our lifetime, we all fall for someone who completes our personality. Make us feel at home. But what happens when this beautiful feeling comes with terms and conditions? Why is it “HE” for “SHE” and not “SHE” for “SHE” or “HE” for “HE”? Why is it unnatural to fall for someone regardless of one’s gender?

Even after 2 years of declaring Sec 377 of IPC as unconstitutional “in so far as it criminalizes consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex” by the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Zohar V. Union of India, the country still couldn’t accept what was criminalized by the British Colonial Penal Code. Still, there is stigma and prejudice faced by the LGBTQ+ community in India. One of the recent heartbreaking incidents of “Anjana Harish” taking her own life is a mirror to the wickedness faced by Queer Community daily. Not only the society but also their own family thinks of them as unnatural. The 21 years old Anjana was forced into conversion therapy as a result of which she took her life.

What is Conversion Therapy?

The pseudo-scientific practice of seeking, using psychological, physical, and perhaps spiritual therapies, to convert an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.

Though there is no trustworthy evidence that validates the use of conversion therapy still it is prevalent in most of the countries that these youths have to undergo.

Homosexuality or bisexuality was perceived as a mental disorder. Behavioral therapy, Electro-Convulsive therapy were used to create a negative association towards the same sex, or through hypnotic suggestions, one was converted into heterosexual. But later on, this assumption was opposed by the American Psychiatric Association and those who indulge in the same as unethical.

Some of the techniques and therapies are stated below:

Psychoanalysis: – the practitioners of this therapy considered childhood conflicts as an obvious cause of homosexuality and used this long therapy to cure the same.

Reparative Theory: – often used as a synonym to conversion therapy, this therapy aims at discarding same-sex attraction. Reparative is understood as a person’s unconscious attempt to “self-repair” a feeling of inferiority.

Behavioral Modification: – to cure homosexuality, electric shocks were given to the person while showing same-sex erotic images. Heavy medication inducing nausea and other pain-inducing methods were used to create negative feelings towards same-sex attraction.

Ex-Gay Ministries:-also known as transformational ministries, aims at converting one into heterosexual.

The rise of LGBTQ+ movements in the 1960s and 70s defied these practices and the notion of it being a mental disorder. The fruitful result was that homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973.

In India, the IPS (Indian Psychiatric Society) in Feb 2014 stated that there is no evidence to support the idea of heterosexuality as a mental disorder hence conversion therapy was nationwide banned. Some practitioners still see homosexual desire as a disorder that may be rectified medically. Conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ has been a topic of concern because of straightforward entry in discovering the professionals. After a viral Twitter crusade in early June 20, two applications that assisted people with discovering clinical centers and medicines eliminated pages permitting clients to search for “sexual orientation counseling”.

In the Laxman Balkrishna Joshi case, the supreme court held that the use of such therapy by the doctor can attract civil liability- where a person can claim compensation for the damages under medical negligence since the doctor has an obligation to choose whether they ought to or ought not to take up the case. But to eradicate the practice, monetary compensation is not sufficient. It is necessary to attract criminal liability to eliminate this practice from India.

Recently the single-judge bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh of Madras High Court took a significant step towards recognizing LGBTQ+ rights thus making Tamil Nadu the first state of India to ban conversion therapy. While hearing the case S Sushma V. Commissioner of Police — the case of a lesbian couple from Madurai who had eloped to Chennai and were being harassed by their families held that “any attempts to medically cure or change the sexual orientation of LGBTIQA+ people to heterosexual or the gender identity of transgender people to cisgender,” is illegal and prohibits the use of the same.

This is a significant step that aims at ending the atrocities faced by the queer community in India. By upholding their rights under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, these so-called therapy practitioners can be penalized for torturing homosexuals and giving them the pain of a lifetime. 

There are numerous examples of people from this community who are breaking the barriers across fields. Sathyasri Sharmila is one of them. She is Tamil Nadu’s first Transgender lawyer. In 2017, Joyita Mondal becomes the country’s first transgender person to be appointed as a Judge in Lok Adalat. Despite such eye-opening examples, our country still finds homosexuality as against the divine order and indulges in treating it. They care more about society than their children and force them to undergo this soul-wrecking therapy just to be normal before the so-called “Chaar Log”.

Since queer people are often under a state of confusion regarding their sexual orientation, this angle of curing instead of making them love themselves is not only torturing but soul-wrecking. What they need is acceptance, not a restriction on how to be themselves. There is nothing wrong with them so what’s the point of rectifying the already correct thing.