The Kerala High Court recently directed the State government to frame guidelines to ensure that stringent action is taken to prevent the practice of forced conversion therapy that persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community are often subject to [Queerala & Anr. v State of Kerala & Ors].
Justice PV Kunhikrishnan took a serious view of the issue when the petitioners recounted instances of conversion therapy they witnessed, and directed the government to consult relevant stakeholders and constitute an expert committee if needed.
“If there is forced conversion as alleged by the petitioners, stringent action should be taken. This is a matter to be looked into by the State Government. According to me, a guideline is necessary in this regard for conversion therapy, if medically it is possible. Therefore, the State Government will look into this matter and if necessary, will constitute an expert committee to study this issue. Based on the study report, the state government will frame a guideline and produce the same before this Court within 5 months. Before finalising the guidelines, a representative of the State Government shall be heard. Other stakeholders also should be heard by the Government before framing the guidelines”, the order stated.
The Court directed the State government to file a report before it within a period of five months.
The Court issued the order on a petition filed by Queerala, a registered association of people belonging to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & intersex life (LGBTQI) community in Kerala, and a trans man who claimed to be a victim of forced conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy is any attempt, treatment or psychotherapy to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The widely-discredited practice may be done with or without the informed consent of the person who is subjected to it.
The petition sought a declaration that any form of forced conversion therapy of people belonging to the LGBTIQIA+ Community is illegal, unconstitutional and violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, 21 of the Constitution.
It sought directions to the State government to take necessary measures to ban conversion therapy and formulate guidelines to make it illegal for any practitioner or mental health professional to prescribe or perform the same.
Advocate Ferha Azeez, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that the members of the community are forced to undergo conversion therapy at the insistence of medical professionals. This causes severe mental and physical problems to the individuals who are subjected to it, she argued.
Moreover, she pointed out that there are no official government guidelines to deal with such instances. The Government Pleader admitted to the same.
Government Pleader Bijo Francis stated that even though the government has not received any complaints in this regard, it is of the opinion that the practice is illegal.
A counter-affidavit filed by the Kerala State Mental Health Authority stated that there exists no therapy that has been approved or proven effective for the conversion of sexual preferences or gender identity. However, the affidavit stated that the testimonies of LGBTQIA+ persons in the petition indicates that it is likely that such unscientific and unethical treatments are being used by some mental health professionals and unqualified persons.
“Conversion therapy for transgender and homosexual persons is unscientific, unethical and harmful to the subjects,” the affidavit said.
The Court opined that the government needs to formulate guidelines to tackle the issue and directed it to file a report on the same within five months.
The matter will be taken up next on May 18, 2022.
Read Order here: