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Welcome The Post-Sec. 377 Era! What About Conversion Therapies?

The flow of inexplicable emotions and energy cannot be defined in words. India has transitioned into an era where the rainbow is sprightlier than ever before!

My friends and colleagues from the bar and beyond have done an excellent job in identifying the key takeaways from the 6th September verdict, so I won’t get into that aspect. For the past two years, I, along with colleague Dr. Bhuchitra Singh, who is situated at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Maryland, have made some endeavors to study the causal relation between the pre-verdict Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and the rampant growth of conversion therapy across South Asia. While our paper is nearly out in the public domain, it is essential that certain underlying issues are highlighted at the outset.

It is our understanding that the existence of pre-verdict Section 377 provided leverage to conversion therapists/ psychiatrists in blatantly disregarding the inherent illegalities in conversion therapies. Conversion therapy involves practices that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation from LGB to heterosexual based on the premise that homosexuality is an illness, choice or sin (Flentje, 2014). In these circumstances, sexual orientation can be defined to include being identified as LGB, physical attraction towards individuals of the same gender and engagement with the LGB community (Flentje, 2014). Other names for the practice include sexual reorientation therapy, reorientation therapy, conversion therapy and reparative therapy, as well as sexual orientation change efforts, the preferred term for the American Psychological Association (Flentje, 2014).

Series of sting operations carried out by private media conspicuously available on public domains clearly highlight the ease with which certain sexologists/psychiatrists are using electrotherapy to blood transfusion claiming to “cure the disease”. Depending on the socio-economic status of their so-called “patient”, they are charging anywhere from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore! Of course, the absence or dearth of any academic data or records in this regard is a major impediment in our research, it will anyhow be interesting to study the impact of the constitution bench’s decision on conversion therapy.

To our understanding, these therapies constitute unparalleled torture on innocent individuals with no academic study whatsoever pointing any success. The failure of professional bodies to take a serious note of these hormonal/conversion therapies cannot and must not be ignored any further. While we were able to procure some data through RTI queries, its relevance is contextual and will be shared with the publication of our paper, but it is noteworthy that there is absolutely no deterrence from indulging in such medical malpractices.

We have reasons to believe through anecdotes and the careful analysis that more often than not these therapies are a major cause of suicides in the LGBT community and lead to a vicious cycle where a homosexual maybe coerced into getting married to the opposite gender or vice versa. This attracts criminal sanction for the victim who was forced into a matrimonial arrangement and leads to the victimisation of the partner. The ramifications are endless, but this issue must not go unheard while we celebrate the verdict.

Mr. Sanjay Vashishtha is an advocate and a criminologist practicing at the Supreme Court of India and a Research Associate at the Department of Criminology, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

[The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of LiveLaw and LiveLaw does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same]

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