On 6th of September 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized homosexuality by striking down Section 377 of IPC. It marked the victory of LGBT community against 200-year-old British-era law, that criminalized same-sex relationship. The verdict by Justice Indu Malhotra stated that History owed an apology to the members of the LGBTQ community for the delay in providing redressal for the humiliation and discrimination that they have suffered through the centuries.
Recently Multinational research firm Ipsos released a report on the findings of the LGBT+ Pride 2021 Global Survey The findings show that 2% of the Indian population identify as other than male or female. In regards to the sexual orientation, the report shows that 3% of the Indian Population identify as homosexual (Including Gay and Lesbian), 9% identify as bisexual, 1% identify as pansexual and 2% identify as asexual. In the recent years, LGBT rights in India have been evolving rapidly.
Homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the year 1973. This marked the official passing of the illness model of homosexuality. However, despite the official de-pathologizing of homosexuality, horrific pseudoscientific practices like sexual orientation conversion therapy still persist. Sexual conversion therapies, also called reparative therapies, are ‘treatments’ including but not limited to individual talk therapy, behavioral therapy, group therapy or in some cases electro-shock therapy.
This repugnant practice stems from the belief that one’s sexuality can be changed or is a matter of choice and that something is inherently wrong in the psyche of a homosexual person, treating homosexuality in a similar vein as addiction. Religious groups take this a step further as they believe homosexuals to be possessed by malignant spirits, often carrying out full-blown exorcisms on said person. These kinds of attempts at treating a person who actually has nothing wrong with them can leave them mentally and emotionally scarred. The history of such therapy is almost as old as psychiatry itself. In the early 20th century, several excessively cruel methods known as “gay cures” were deployed by Dr. Sigmund Freud and his followers .
A famous example of conversion therapy is when Dr. Alan Turing, the mind behind the deciphering of the Enigma code used by the Nazis during the Second World War, was chemically castrated. This happened in 1952 after his homosexuality was outed and thusly, he was charged for “gross indecency” despite being responsible for ending the World War early. The 1983 issue of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, mentioned a study regarding the “treatment” of six LGBTQ individuals. In an odd case of reality imitating fiction, the form of aversion therapy used was frighteningly similar to the Ludovico technique from A Clockwork Orange. The study involved showing them sexually stimulating photographs of the same sex and opposite sex. For photographs of the same sex, the subjects were given mild electric shocks to induce aversion. Whereas, for photographs of the opposite sex, the subjects were positively reinforced through music or perfumes.
Even now, there has been no peer-reviewed scientific literature that has established any sort of evidence that sexual conversion therapy can in any way augment or change sexual orientation. In fact, a lot of evidence has been published against it. Several studies have shown that minors who were subjected to conversion therapy ended up taking their own lives as adults. Even though extreme forms of sexual conversion such as corrective rape have been outlawed, an outright ban on conversion therapy is yet to be seen worldwide. This draconian practice carries on even in this day and age.
According to the ILGA i.e. International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, being gay is punishable in 70 UN member states by imprisonment, torture or even death. For a better world, which promotes diversity and inclusion, globally societies need to embrace the orientation and choices of LGBT community. In June 2018 World Health Organization proposed to remove “gender incongruence” from the list of mental illnesses. Globally we are seeing big Corporates increasingly promoting diversity in the workforce and making inclusion a part of corporate ethos.
It will be not too optimistic to think that though our destination is far, but our journey is on the right track. It is the time for every citizen to come out and speak in favor of open societies and inclusive world.