Demonising doctors and families who force individuals to undergo conversion therapy is the easy bit. The far harder part is the work that must go into building an affirmative society that is respectful of individual choice
K’s parents prided themselves on being educated and liberal and yet, when he told them he was gay, he remembers his mother saying: “You don’t have to flaunt it. After all we do live in society.”
K is one of the lucky ones, unlike the many who, when they come out to their families, are dragged off to psychiatrists, counselors, godmen and sundry quacks for a ‘cure’.
The suicide of a woman in Kerala has ignited conversation on this so-called ‘conversion therapy’. There is talk in some activist circles of legal options. An online petition wants mental health practitioners to pledge support to LGBTQI+ people. And four different professional organisations such as the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy, have issued statements debunking it.
Conversion therapy has ‘absolutely no scientific basis’, says Vikram Patel, psychiatrist and professor of global health at Harvard Medical School. “It has been prohibited by every major psychiatric association in the world, including India.”