The National Medical Commission (NMC) told the Madras High Court that any doctor in the country found engaged in conversion therapy will be liable to be prosecuted for professional misconduct under the Indian Medical Council, Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics Regulation, 2002.
This statement was part of NMC’s submission to the court in response to an expert committee’s report to modify the MBBS syllabus so as to sensitize medical students about realities of people of marginalized gender identities and sexualities.
The committee had been constituted upon the directive of Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras HC.
The Court also directed NMC to circulate the committee’s report to all the state medical councils (SMCs) post-haste, so the SMCs can take disciplinary action against doctors found engaged in such malpractices.
This effectively sets the ball rolling on the Court’s verdict to ban the practice of conversion therapy in India, in June 2021. This compliments the Mental Health Care Act which may also be invoked to challenge the practice of conversion therapy, as it is often against the will and to the detriment of the individual exposed to it.
Conversion therapy refers to all practices that attempt to ‘medically cure’ genderqueer people and people of queer sexual orientations, forcing them to adhere to cis-het norms of society. This judgment is part of the Court’s hearing of a plea by a WLW couple who fled their respective homes and sought protection from police harassment, following ‘missing’ complaints filed by their parents.
The Court’s treatment of this case has also been instrumental in the TN government introducing an amendment to Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules 1964, which prohibits the state police from harassing the LGBTQIA+ community and those working towards its welfare.
On Monday, February 21, the Court also published a Tamil glossary of terms submitted by people belonging to the queer community in the state, emphasizing its preference for it over that submitted by TN state government. The glossary was put together by Queer Chennai Chronicles (QCC), Orinam, The News Minute and other contributors.
The glossary recommended words that respected the self-determined identities of queer folx in the state, over terms that were felt to be derogatory or disrespectful by people in the community.
This past week, New Zealand’s Parliament also gave its final approval with a resounding majority of 112-8 to a law that banned conversion therapy on minors and some other populations in the country.
Israel’s move is similar to India’s, in the sense that it is not a legislation but a set of rules circulated by the Health Ministry that bars doctors from advertising, offering or performing conversion therapy. Any misconduct violating the rules will be posed with a penalty.
A law passed by the Centre would further strengthen the movement to curb this malpractice in India.