Conversion therapy by medical professionals — an illegal practice that queer people are subjected to in order to ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation or gender — amounts to professional misconduct, the National Medical Commission (NMC) has told the Madras High Court. The High Court has been hearing a plea by a lesbian couple in Chennai seeking protection from police harassment. The High Court bench of Justice A Venkatesh recently passed an order in which it also published a Tamil glossary of LGBTQIA+ terms prepared by queer communities and individuals, and in this order, the HC also recorded the submission by the medical council.
The HC noted that an important recommendation was made by an expert committee with regard to “conversion therapy” being identified as a professional misconduct. The NMC has now said that action should be taken against medical professionals who prescribe such illegal practices. The High Court noted that the expert committee had “made it very clear” that any attempt or interventions to change the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of a person, “should be construed as a professional misconduct on the part of the medical professionals.”
“The National Medical Council, on the basis of the recommendations made by the expert committee, through their communication dated 15.02.2022, has specifically directed the National Medical Council- Ethics and Medical Registration Board to take action wherever such “conversion therapies” are undertaken by any medical professional," the court said.
The HC added that Section 27 of the National Medical Council Act, 2019, specifically provides that State Medical Councils should ensure the compliance of the Code of Professional and Ethical Conduct and wherever it has the power, the State Medical Council should take disciplinary action when it comes to professional or ethical misconduct.
“In view of the same, there shall be a direction to the National Medical Council to immediately circulate the report of the expert committee and the recommendations made to all the State Medical Councils across the country,” the High Court said in its order. “This will ensure that the State Medical Council, wherever it is conferred with the power of taking disciplinary action for professional misconduct, can take note of the recommendations of the expert committee, and proceed to take action against the concerned medical professional. This direction shall be complied with by the National Medical Council within a period of four weeks,” the HC added.
Recently, with this case was being heard in court, the Tamil Nadu government introduced an amendment, making harassment of LGBTQIA+ persons by the state police an act punishable by law. The state government amended the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules 1964 to include a new rule — 24 C — which states that police officers must not harass LGBTQIA+ persons and those working for the community’s wellbeing.