On June 12, a 22-year-old lesbian student from Kochi sat in a doctor’s office as her life choices were being dissected. She was taken to a hospital by her parents without her consent. A doctor from the reputed hospital offered to ‘change’ her sexual orientation by admitting her, offering medication and counselling. In other words, we are speaking about another instance of conversion therapy. The practice caught our attention again in March when Anjana Harish, a 21-year-old student committed suicide in Goa after being mentally and physically tortured at a ‘de-addiction centre’ in Palakkad where she was taken against her will by her family.
Dhanya Ravindran, a board member of Queerala, an LGBTQIA+ community in Kerala, who is acquainted with the woman says, “My friend was taken by her family to get ‘treatment’. Even after Anjana’s case, where a child’s life was lost due to something like this, the doctor asked to admit her there. They promised to help the parents by offering counselling and asked her to get admitted there. They also wanted to check if she had any physical issues. She did not agree. When we inquired further, we also found that the doctor who claimed to be a psychiatrist was actually a psychologist.”
In 2018, when the Supreme Court decriminalised Section 377, the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) disavowed conversion therapy and released a statement completely discrediting the practice. According to Om Prakash Singh, Editor of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry and Professor of Psychiatry at the West Bengal Medical Education Service, “We have given a statement strictly criticising this. And since homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder, there is no question of conversion or any kind of treatment for that. Secondly, even if an organisation is offering such a thing, it is not going to work. They are basically deceiving people. Medication could not possibly alter your sexual orientation.”
After Anjana’s suicide became public and the video was available online, Queerala sent it to the Indian Psychiatric Society’s Kerala Chapter and organised a consultation with them in February. After being informed, they released a statement about their position against conversion therapy. At the same time, they also sent a complaint to the Kerala State Mental Health Authority from whom they are yet to receive a response. As the next step, the organisation plans to submit a writ petition to the Kerala High Court. During the incident that occured on June 12, the girl was able to record the 30-minute long conversation that she had with her parents and the doctor. Here are excerpts from the conversation that Queerala has shared with us: