HC tells Kerala govt to form guidelines to fight conversion therapy of LGBTQIA+ people

The guidelines should be formulated in five months in consultation with LGBTQIA+ group Queerala and other stakeholders, the court said.
Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court
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Kerala could soon be on its way to banning conversion therapy of LGBTQIA+ persons in the state. The Kerala High Court has told the state government to form guidelines for conversion therapy of LGBTQIA+ people, so that forced conversion therapy can then be stopped. The court said this in an interim order on Friday, December 10, on a petition to ban conversion therapy, an illegal and pseudoscientific practice that claims to "cure" queer people. “If there is forced conversion as alleged by the petitioners, stringent action should be taken,” the court said. “This is a matter to be looked into by the [state government]. According to me, a guideline is necessary in this regard for conversion therapy...Therefore, the [state government] will look into this matter and if necessary, will constitute an expert committee to study this issue.” 

“Based on the study report, the [state government] will frame a guideline and produce the same before this Court within 5 months. Before finalising the guidelines, a representative of [Queerala] shall be heard. Other stakeholders also should be heard by the Government before framing the guidelines,” the court added. 

The petition asking for a ban of conversion therapy and for the formation of guidelines in giving therapy to queer people was filed in the High Court over a year ago by Queerala and Raghav, a trans activist and board member of Malayalee Transmen Association (MATA). This was done after they got reports of increasing cases of conversion therapy happening across the state. "Even as the case was proceeding, we have received reports of a number of queer individuals being forced into conversion therapies. So we are happy with the interim order asking the State to form guidelines, in which we will also be involved," said Rajashree Raju, a board member of Queerala.

Justice PV Kunhikrishnan took into account that while several studies across the world have said that conversion therapy is ineffective and harmful to LGBTQIA+ individuals, the Mental Healthcare Act of India does not ban it outright. It is therefore upto state governments to form specific guidelines. 

The Kerala government in their reply also submitted that they believe conversion therapy is illegal. “The Kerala State Mental Health Authority did not receive any compliant in the past about Conversion Therapy in Kerala. There is no therapy that has been approved or proven effective for conversion of sexual preferences or gender identity But going through the testimonies submitted by the petitioners mentioned in para 4 (vii), it is likely that such unscientific and unethical treatments are being used by some mental health professionals and unqualified persons Conversion therapy for transgender and homosexual persons is unscientific, unethical and harmful to the subjects,” they said. 

The court has asked the state government to submit the guidelines by May 18, 2022.

"It is a good decision. The Honorable High Court has issued an apt direction to the state government to formulate the guidelines. In the absence of such guidelines, the authorities will also become helpless. They may not be legally empowered to take any action," says Advocate Ferha, who appeared for the petitioners.

The interim order comes months after the historic order by the Madras High Court, issuing guidelines against discrimination of LGBTQI+ people.

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