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Criminalisation of conversion therapy in India

Since British India, homosexuality has been a crime in our country which was followed till 2018 in India. Section 377 of Indian Penal Code was introduced in 1861 during British rule, criminalising homosexuality and referred it as 'unnatural offence' which states that:
whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.

This rule was passed on till now until Supreme Court of India decriminalised section 377 of IPC and stated that sexual orientation is natural and is not a person's fault and made sexual relationship between same gender legal on September 6th 2018. This section used to violate article 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution as article 15 prohibits discrimination against a person on any basis.

In ancient India, there are some sculptures on temples and many stories which indicates that homosexuality is been part of India since a very long time. The birth story of Bhagirath (who brought Ganga river from heaven to earth) in Hindu mythology suggested that homosexuality was a thing in that time and wasn't really criticised like today, but any kind of propagation or support has not been shown anywhere.

However, the Supreme Court of India has legalised homosexuality but what about the society? There are many people and many parents who refuse to accept this as a normal thing, which leads to brutality against a person and becomes hard for a person to come up with his or her orientation and also leads to mental issues, like trauma , depression etc. which ultimately ruins a person.

When parents and society doesn't accept homosexuality as natural then they send their children or relatives to such institution where they claim to cure sexual orientation. Society in India treats this as an issue of psychology. When a person is forced to change their orientation by coerced methods and abuse then it is called Conversion Therapy. This therapy is used not just in India but many parts of the world.

Conversion Therapy
This therapy also known as 'reparative therapy' is a pseudoscientific practice which claims or tries to change a sexual orientation of a person by different coerced methods. It tries to change homosexuality, bisexuality into the heterosexuality but there is no proof that this can be done as it is a natural thing and does not have any flaw with it. The American Psychiatric Association says that sexual orientation is a natural thing and trying to change it is unethical for a practitioner.

Since historical times in the world many renowned psychiatrists tried to use and change the orientation of people but were unsuccessful. Sigmund Freud, one of the most famous psychologists also tried its best to change the orientation and said that orientation can be changed sometimes by hypnotic suggestions, but sexual preferences and orientation cannot be changed at any circumstances.

Need for ban
A 21-year-old girl went for a Goa trip with her friends, committed suicide and found dead on May 12th, 2020. After that the story came out in public about what she went through just because her sexual orientation was different from others and just because her parents did not approve it, people started to raise their voice against conversion therapy and that it should be criminalised.

The victim was taken by her parents to a conversion therapy where they claim to treat her. She was drugged many times and she also faced physical abuse and torture which led to a very traumatic experience for the girl. She was kept in a cell both mentally and physically and was allowed only to come out during mealtime. She went to Goa only for change of scene and break from the therapy but her parents did not wanted her to have the vacation and they started threatening her friends and reported missing complaint and after that she was found dead.

Such conversion therapy institution still exists in our country which leads to brutality against the humanity. Its an inhuman attempt to cure something which in the first place is not abnormal and very paradoxical to ethics and morals. In an official statement issued on 21st May, the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists (IACP) called Conversion Therapy a dangerously harmful, discredited, and painful and traumatizing unprofessional practice.

This is an inhuman act which should be stopped and should not practice on LGBT community, its unethical in nature. It leads to unhealthy impact on person and dangerous for mental health as many people suffers from trauma while undergoing the therapy and this can leave a mark in their lives forever.

Legislative and judiciary system should ban this therapy as there are many provisions in existing which can help them to do it. When Supreme Court of India abolished section 377 of IPC, it stated that sexual orientation is normal, and no one should be forced to change it. Conversion therapy violates article 14 of Indian Constitution which is Right to Equality, article 19(1) (a) of Indian Constitution which is Freedom of Speech and Mental Health Care Act 2017 refrains any kind of discrimination with the patient on basis of sexual orientation or any other reasons.

The historical judgement of Supreme Court of India in 2018 also says that there should be proper provision of counselling for LGBT community so that they can adjust in the surrounding comfortably. But none of the provision directly outlaws 'conversion therapy'.

Many other countries now also considered 'conversion therapy' as inhuman and unethical act towards a person. For example, Germany has declared punishment of 1-year imprisonment or �30,000 on those who would practice this therapy. Many other countries like the United States of America and Australia etc. have banned this inhuman therapy. Recently, Virginia became the 20th state to ban this therapy.

This practice is dangerous in nature and discredited practice as no one can change someone's identity. India is already one of the most depressed country in the world and if such act will go on then people of India will suffer a great loss in upcoming times. Minors are more vulnerable to such therapy that leads to many mental issues like depression, trauma, stress and can ruins a life. Some famous personality of India like Baba Ramdev claims yoga and meditation can cure homosexuality but there is nothing to cure then how those babas and doctors' claims this?

Doctors uses shock therapy to a normal person which can totally damage a person's brain. All these babas, doctors, and parents needs to stop such inhuman practice.

Conversion Therapy means forcing someone to change its sexual orientation. Our society tends to believe that if something isn't common then its abnormal, which is not true. In our country people are suffering due to such practice and out youth is our future and if people will continue to torture them on such petty issues then the future of India will lead to destruction.

The Supreme Court has accepted the fact that sexual orientation is normal, but when the society will accept it? A 21-year-old girl became a victim of this treacherous therapy and who knows how many suffers due to such therapy which is existing in our country. Maximum of the cases even goes unreported.

The first step to stop such crimes is through psychological counselling in the large number to make society comfortable with this concept and help those people to come out live their lives to the fullest. The 'doctors', 'babas' and other cosmic healers need to stop the propaganda that this thing is abnormal and can be cured. Parents should be the first one to understand and support their respective children and spread awareness towards LGBT community.

A simple judgement won't change the mindset of the people, also it was not the legacy of our country. This inhuman therapy and stigma were brought by Britishers in our country. The group 'Hijda' has always been considered as a good luck if we make them happy. In many joyous occasion people called them to get blessings from them as it is believed that their blessings are powerful. They have been respected since a long time in our country.

Conversion Therapy should not even call as therapy, it is just inhuman and dangerous criminal act done by our society. We need to accept this part of our society and spread awareness. Government has so many provisions which can outlaw conversion therapy from our country and this criminalisation will lead to protection of our society from such heinous and monstrous act.

End Notes:
  1. Section No. 377, Unnatural offences, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  2. Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk, Anjana Harish's Suicide Shows Why India Must End Practice of 'Conversion Therapy', The Better India (27th May 2020) 

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Bhavya Pandey - BBA. LL. B ( H), Amity Law School, Amity University, Noida
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JA38251630763-03-0122

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