A landmark campaign by the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), the country’s largest body of mental health professionals, has been launched to state that members need to ‘stop considering homosexuality as an illness’.
Senior members of the society are using social media to call for the decriminalisation of homosexuality as physicians still continue to believe that homosexuality can be treated or cured through conversion therapy.
Ajit Bhide, the president of the IPS and a senior psychiatrist in Bangalore, said in a video message that “the IPS needs to take a radical stance – which is to stop considering homosexuality as an illness,” before adding that “whatever your sexual orientation, whatever your sexual preference, as long as there is no other party being hurt, an individual should be allowed to practice.”
The campaign is being lead by professional psychiatrists who have examined concerns about the distress that members of the LGBTQ+ community face as they come to terms with their sexual orientation.
Kersi Chavda, chair of the campaign’s task force and a senior consultant psychiatrist in Mumbai, said:
Our campaign condemns efforts at conversion or treatment, but psychiatrists and counsellors should be available to provide support to members of the LGBT community who may be in distress. They may need treatment for anxiety or depression.
Dr Bhooshan Shukla, a Pune based psychiatrist, told the Hindustan Times that “this is the first time IPS has publicly made a categorical statement on its take on homosexuality. Now, they must inform all IPS members in strictest possible terms to stop practising conversion therapies.”
The news is greeted by LGBTQ+ individuals living in India, particularly as Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises any form of sexual intercourse that is non-penile vaginal, is nearing two decades old. In January, India’s Supreme Court declared it would re-examine Section 377 and it’s hoped the IPS campaign will help to spur that on.
The IPS task force will hold a day-long conference in New Delhi on July 1st, which will see members of the society speak with fellow psychiatrists and physicians, as well as members of the public.