Delhi Commission For Women Seeks Action On Conversion Therapy For LGBTQI+ Community, Issues Notice

An Andhra Pradesh-based organistion has advertised a course to 'cure' homosexuality among other conditions listed as 'psychosomatic disorders'.

The rainbow-coloured flag has emerged as the symbol of the LGBTQ-rights movement over the years.

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) on Saturday issued a notice to National Medical Commission (NMC) to seek action against conversion therapy aimed at the LGBTQI+ community. 

Taking cognisance of an organisation claiming to 'cure' homosexuality and lesbianism and terming these sexual orientations as "disorders", DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal wrote to NMC and noted that that such activities —conversion therapy— is illegal. She also sought an inquiry into the organisation whose advertisement she shared.

In a tweet, Maliwal shared copies of her letter to NMC along with an advertisement from Andhra Pradesh-based World Congress of Psychologists that's conducting a three-month training program to 'cure' 47 psychosomatic conditions in which the organisation also includes homosexuality.

"Appears that an organisation claims homosexuality, lesbianism, and transvestism are 'disorders' which they can cure through 'conversion therapy'. This is illegal. Have issued notice to National Medical Council to enquire and take strong action incase the org is doing this illegal act," said Maliwal on Twitter.

What has DCW chief Maliwal said in letter?

In her letter to NMC, Maliwal noted that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a resolution stating that homosexuality is not a mental illness or sickness. She also noted that conversion therapy harms the LGBTQI+ community.

"It is an established fact that homosexuality, lesbianism and transvestism are not 'psychosomatic disorders'. Over 50 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a resolution stating that homosexuality is not a mental illness or sickness. These so called 'conversion therapies' simply perpetuate myths, biases and discrimination in the society against the LGBTQIA+ community," said Maliwal in her letter.

Maliwal also cited a 2021 judgement of the Madras High Court and a subsequent MNC declaration that conversion therapy is indeed illegal.

Maliwal noted that despite these judgements, it was unfortunate that conversion therapy is still prevalent and such programmes seem to be organised and advertised.

Maliwal has issued a notice to the chairman of the National Medical Commission and has sought a copy of the enquiry report in the matter. She has asked whether the program is being conducted or was conducted in the past and if so, details of action taken against the organisation, its office bearers and trainers as well as whether their licenses have been revoked.

Maliwal has also asked for a copy of the guidelines or advisories issued by the National Medical Commission banning conversion therapy of LGBTQIA+ persons.

What is conversion therapy?

Conversion therapy refers to the the process that seeks to change one's sexual orientation or gender identity. The idea of conversion therapy is rooted in the belief that homosexuality or other non-heterosexual orientations are a 'disease' or 'disorder' that needs a 'cure'. 

Conversion therapy often takes other excuses to carry out its agenda. 

"Proponents of conversion therapy often intentionally conflate the attempted altering of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression with the treatment of an actual condition such as sexual addiction. Some claim they are helping clients explore their 'sexual fluidity', or they emphasise that their clients struggle with 'unwanted same-sex attractions' or 'gender confusion'," notes LGBTQI+ advocacy group GLAAD.

A 2021 assessment of the British government found that there exists no evidence to support that conversion therapy works. The report further noted that the process actually carried more harm.

"There is no robust evidence that conversion therapy can achieve its stated therapeutic aim of changing sexual orientation or gender identity...Conversion therapies were associated with self-reported harms among research participants who had experienced conversion therapy for sexual orientation and for gender identity – for example, negative mental health effects like depression and feeling suicidal," noted the 2021 review of available research on the subject.

(With PTI inputs)