No cure for queerness: The cruelty of conversion therapy

The Supreme Court of India decriminalized homosexuality in 2018. However, attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ community continue to be archaic. Discrimination against the queer community manifests in many ways, from stereotypes and jibes to harassment and violence. Among the most inhumane forms of it is conversion therapy.

India has had an interesting relationship with queerness. Queer practices did exist in ancient India. In fact, legends from 14th century Bengal tell the story of a same-sex couple that gave birth to a child. However, much had changed after 200 years of British colonial rule. Queer traditions were now viewed with disgust and derision. The 1970s saw a resurrection in finding ‘cures’ for homosexuality. This renewed curiosity resulted in the earliest use of conversion therapy in India.

Conversion therapy or reparative therapy is the use of prayers, exorcisms and violence to ‘correct’ the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person. Alterations are forced on them through physical violence, corrective rapes and food deprivation. Apart from the use of electric shock therapy, corrective institutes also sought to instil, in their patients, heteronormative ideas of femininity and masculinity.

Although many medical practitioners and psychologists across the country have condemned this practice, its shadow continues to haunt the LQBTQIA+ community, even today. It continues to be employed by families to ‘cure’ queerness. Widespread attention was drawn to this issue last year when 21-year-old Anjana Hareesh of Kerala died by suicide after being forced into conversion therapy.

A recent verdict of the Madras High Court outlawed conversion therapy. Still, this is only the first step towards bringing an end to the use of such abhorrent techniques. While the significance of Government action cannot be denied, acceptance and awareness is the real cure. The medical community needs to help disprove the misconceptions associated with the LQBTQIA+ community. A system that allows victims to report their experience with conversion therapy will allow for accountability and the prosecution of those who continue to propagate such pseudo-medical ‘cures’.

Conversion therapy seeks to erase the existence of several sexual orientations and gender identities. Hence, it comes into conflict with the very foundation of the Indian Constitution. This practice needs to be left in the past, for it violates fundamental human rights. After all, love needs no cure.

Electroconvulsive Therapy as a Method of ‘Curing’ Queerness

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A Campaign for “Love Needs No Cure”

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Authored By: Tarini Agarwal

Edited By: Akanksha Mallick