A plea in the High Court states that the textbooks and curriculum stereotypes the queer community’s sexual or gender identities as offence, mental disorder or perversion.

Representative image of a doctor in the backdrop of LGBTQIA+ flag
news Court Wednesday, September 08, 2021 - 14:55

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday considered a significant plea which highlighted the queerphobic contents in medical education textbooks in the country, and directed the Under-Graduate Medical Education Board, New Delhi to consider the petitioners’ grievances within eight weeks. The plea filed by two non-profit organisations in Kerala has pinpointed the offensive descriptions and derogatory remarks on queer persons and sexual minorites in MBBS textbooks, and the curriculum set by the National Medical Commission and Under-Graduate Medical Education Board. Calling the plea a ‘serious issue’, the Kerala High Court has sought urgent intervention of the Under Graduate Medical Education Board, reports Live Law.

The petition filed jointly by Queerythm, a Kerala based organisation working for the empowerment of queer community, and Dhisha, an organisation providing social welfare services to minority communities, states that the textbooks and curriculum “stereotype the queer community’s sexual or gender identities as offence, mental disorder or perversion.” The petitioners who have sought a revision of the curriculum and medical textbooks, have argued that the problematic remarks are an infringement of the Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) and Article 14 (Equality before law) and that they also discriminate against the queer community.

Citing the problematic points, the plea states that the curriculums prepared by National Medical Commission and Under Graduate Medical Education Board, has labeled ‘homosexuality and lesbianism’ under ‘un-natural sexual offence, sexual perversion and paraphilia’. The curriculum also teaches ‘homosexuality’ as a ‘sexual disorder’ and ‘transgenderism’ is taught under ‘gender identity disorder’.

The petition has also named many textbooks under the Kerala University of Health Sciences that is “perpetuating queer phobia, providing unscientific data.”

As per the plea, the 16th edition of Shaw’s Textbook of Gynecology, describes homosexuality, ‘transvestism’ (cross dressing) and transexuality as ‘abnormal sexual behaviors’ and as ‘psychosexual patients’. Review of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology by Gautam Biswas (third edition), meanwhile, classifies homosexuality as a ‘sexual offence’. The book has also wrongly stated that as per Section 377 (Unnatural offences) of the Indian Penal Code, homosexuality is a crime. However, the Supreme Court in a historic verdict three years back, decriminalised homosexuality, but this has not been revised, the petition alleged.

Review of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology further has also made absurd statements like “lesbians are morbidly jealous of one another when rejected may commit homicide, suicide or both. It (lesbianism) is usually indulged by woman who have repulsion for men or who suffer from Nymphomania.” (sic)

The Textbook of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology Principles and Practice by Krishnan Vij (5th edition), calls transgender persons as ‘prostitues’. The petitioners have also pointed to books like Essentials of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology by KSN Reddy (33rd edition); Forensic medicine & Toxicology for MBBS by Anil Aggrawal (1st edition), to have similarly made problematic remarks on sexual minorities.

‘LGBTQIA+ students are traumatised’

Coming down heavily on the derogatory remarks in the medical textbooks, the petitioners state that members of the queer community who are pursuing medical courses, are traumatised and are being victimised. “Due to this victimization and fear of being victimized, students from queer communities pursuing medical education are unable to reveal their identity and come out before this honourable court,” the petitioners said.

The petitioners also stated that the false narratives in textbooks and the unscientific data, are creating a discriminatory attitude towards the queer commuity. “The graveness of discrimination is such that even this discrimination is visible within the four walls of the classroom. The medical students who are the doctors of tomorrow are studying wrong information which is very fatal to the society,” the petition pointed out.

Queerthym and Dhisha, the petitioners, cite that they had in June this year approached the National Medical Commission, Under Graduate Medical Education Board, University Grants Commission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with pleas on the issue, but there has been no response.

A division bench of Justices Shaji P Chaly and S Manikumar directed the Under-Graduate Medical Education Board to take action after consulting the Kerala University of Health Sciences, Thrissur, and to finish the process in eight weeks. 

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