The Supreme Court verdict decriminalising homosexuality came in 2018, yet the textbooks call it an ‘unnatural sexual offence.’

Silhouettes of two men holding hands and running against the rainbow flag of LGBTQI communityImage for representation
news LGBTQI+ Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 16:16

A few days ago, Queerythm, a Kerala-based welfare organisation for LGBTQI+ people, received a call on its helpline. A medical student coming from an orthodox family, deeply religious, was disturbed by the content in his textbook. It reiterated what his religion taught him — that homosexuality was an ‘unnatural sexual offence.’ The gay student was in a bad mental state. Queerythm is on a national campaign to stop such criminalisation of queer people in medical textbooks. The medical student who called them is just one of the many going through a deep mental crisis, unable to come out and confused by the textbook definitions.

The Medical Council of India, which decided the curriculum of medical students, was replaced in 2020 by the National Medical Commission (NMC). Queerythm is now planning to send a representation to the NMC, pointing out the problematic content in textbooks and asking for a much-needed revision. “The NALSA judgment (by the Supreme Court, giving transgender persons the right to self identify their gender) came in 2014, the historic verdict of the Supreme Court decriminalising section 377 (which had criminalised homosexuality) came in 2018. Yet the revised medical curriculum continues to carry such misinformation,” says Prijith PK, founder of Queerythm.

“The decriminalisation of 377 happened in September 2018, the revised medical curriculum in November 2018. Yet, it presented homosexuality and LGBTQI+ identities as ‘unnatural offences’ under a section called sexual offences. They also use terms like sodomy, derived from the Bible, to describe anal sex as a sexual perversion,” says Anuradha, a dental student and board member of Queerythm.

As early as 1973, the American Psychiatric Association issued a resolution, stating that homosexuality was not a mental illness. In 1990 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. “In India we have the support of Indian Psychiatric Society (which categorically stated in 2018 that homosexuality is not a disease) and the Indian Medical Association. However the medical curriculum continues to go against all these medical bodies and even the Supreme Court verdict,” Prijith says. Recently a professor in Palakkad wrote in a textbook on forensic science that homosexuality was an unnatural act, says Anuradha. “He even interpreted the Supreme Court verdict wrongly.”

Queerythm has approached the Kerala state government in the past and once Prijith has directly asked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan about the concern. “However, they said that the curriculum is decided by the Union government and the state could do nothing more than bring it to their attention. Even if we go through the state, the issue needn’t get any attention. So first we are having a national campaign for which medical students of several government colleges have expressed solidarity. There is also a petition on Change.org. Teachers and students in the medical fraternity have voiced their support. Next we will give a presentation to the NCM to hear their explanation. After that we will approach the High Court with Disha, a human rights organisation,” Prijith says.

Also read: ‘They tied me up, sedated me’: A probe into LGBTQI conversion therapy in Kerala

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.