Madras HC suggests action against conversion therapy, LGBTQI+ community cheers

The Madras High Court in a historic order issued guidelines to create a safe environment for LGBTQIA+ people.
Queerala file picture
Queerala file picture
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On Monday, June 7, the Madras High Court pronounced a historic order, giving guidelines to create a safe environment for LGBTQIA+ people, including a suggestion that action be taken against the problematic ‘conversion therapy’ — an illegal pseudoscience practice that claims to ‘cure’ queer persons. Justice Anand Venkatesh, after taking time to learn and understand about the community, interacting with community members and working with a psychologist, gave the order. LGBTQI+ community members, many of whom have sought a ban on conversion therapy, are rejoiced to hear the news.

Justice Anand said in his order, “It is unfortunate that such pseudoscience is peddled to worried and anxious parents of LGBTQIA+ children even today by quacks and self-serving doctors as false hope, many of whom continue to practice conversion therapy – a group of therapies directed at “correcting” nonheterosexual and non-cisgender people to their so called “normal” counterparts — with full impunity, often aided by law enforcement.”

"Really happy to hear this, especially during Pride month. The fact that Justice Anand actually took time to learn about this before producing this beautiful judgment is a big deal,” says Rajashree Raju, board member of Queerala, an organisation in Kerala for the welfare for LGBTQIA+ people. “The petitioners had not asked for all this but he went beyond what was asked to reach this judgment which includes among other things, a ban on conversion therapy,” she adds.

“He worked with a psychologist (Vidya Dinakaran), with Dr L Ramakrishnan, Vice President, SAATHII and met community members like Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju. He admitted in a hearing before this that he doesn’t know much about the queer community, so he would like to take time and learn and then give judgment. And after learning about the community, he said that it was time to produce more legislations to protect the members against discrimination. Decriminalising IPC 377 (section which criminalised homosexuality) was not enough,” Rajashree says.

Queerala along with Raghav, trans activist and board member of Malayalee Transmen Association (MATA), had submitted a petition at the Kerala High Court last October, seeking a ban of conversion therapy. However they have not received a date yet since all the respondents haven’t given a reply. This includes the Woman and Child Department and the Social Justice Department.

“We got a favourable response from the Indian Psychiatric Society but the response from the Kerala State Mental Health Authority has been quite disappointing,” Rajashree says.

Kerala is a state known for its transgender policy in 2015 and other pro-LGBTQIA+ measures. “Now that Tamil Nadu has given such a progressive judgement, we hope that Kerala, which is supposed to be LGBTQIA+ friendly, should also respond favourably to our petition,” Rajashree adds.

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