Trans woman allegedly subjected to conversion therapy at Amrita Hospital, Kerala HC intervenes

The 19-year-old trans woman was allegedly detained by her parents and the doctors at the Amrita Hospital in Kochi, where she was forced to undergo the illegal ‘conversion therapy’.
Kerala High Court
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After a habeas corpus petition alleged that a transgender woman was being forced to undergo the illegal ‘conversion therapy’ at the Amrita Hospital in Kochi, the Kerala High Court has ordered the police to produce her before the court. The 19-year-old trans woman, Elida Rubielle, was allegedly being detained by her family and the doctors at the hospital. Elida had shared this with her friend, who subsequently moved the court for her. While passing the order after hearing the petition on Thursday, June 26, the division bench of Justices Amit Rawal and Easwaran S stated that no procedures should be performed on Elida before she is produced before the court.

Elida’s friends told TNM that she had disclosed her gender identity to her family two years ago, and that she has been subjected to abuse by her family since then. On June 22, she approached the non-profit organisation Dhisha Kerala, with the help of whom the petitioner filed a complaint on her behalf at the police station. 

According to the petitioner, however, the station house officer refused to accept the complaint, and instead called Elida and her father for questioning and sent her back with her family. Elida’s family then allegedly forcibly admitted her to the Amrita Hospital in Edapally on June 25 and forced her to sign a consent form for ‘conversion therapy’.

Conversion therapy, also known as ‘Sexual Orientation Change Efforts’ (SOCE), is an illegal and unscientific practice that LGBTQIA+ persons are subjected to in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In September 2022, the National Medical Commission (NMC) categorised conversion therapy as “professional misconduct” and empowered the State Medical Councils to take disciplinary action against medical professionals who conduct this kind of therapy. In 2021, Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court declared that any attempts to medically ‘cure’ or change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person should be prohibited. The same year, the Kerala High Court directed the state government to frame guidelines against forced conversion therapy by medical practitioners in the state.

In their habeas corpus petition, the petitioner also stated that they have an audio of the Head of the Psychiatry department at the hospital threatening Elida that she would be labelled as “mentally” ill if she tries to get discharged. The petitioner pointed to the 2014 NALSA judgement of the Supreme Court that recognised ‘transgender’ as a gender identity, and also the 2023 judgement in the marriage equality case that said conversion therapies amount to “cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment of queer persons”. They further contended that “conversion therapy is an unscientific pseudo medical practice which attempts to ‘convert’ the sexual orientation of queer people into a heterosexual orientation as well as pressurise them to do forced marriages.”

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