CONVERSION THERAPY BANNED IN CANADA: WHY INDIA MUST CRIMINALIZE IT?

Introduction 

Now Canada has joined the company of the countries that have banned this harmful and discredited conversion therapy[1]. With the new law, forcing someone to undergo conversion therapy; promoting or advertising conversion therapy would be a criminal offence in Canada, making a profit from the provision of conversion therapy would also be an offence, In addition, according to the bill “a person cannot remove a child from Canada knowing the fact that the child undergoes conversion therapy in another country”[2]. Violations of these can draw sentences up to five years imprisonment[3]. This law was the second attempt of the Canadian government in 2021 and the third since 2020[4]. Prime minister of Canada Justin Trudeau tweeted “LGBTQ Canadians, we’ll always stand for you and your rights “. This law is more protective than the previous two bills because it broadens the consent, by this, it would be more effective in protecting both adults and minors. Canada is now one of the few countries where it’s illegal to subject someone whether he is an adult or not, giving consent or not, to this widely discredited practice.

What is conversion therapy?

Conversion therapy, sometimes called “reparative therapy”, or “ex-gay therapy”, is an emotional or physical therapy that is carried out by healthcare providers and by religious or spiritual leaders to cure or repair any person’s attraction towards same-sex people, or their gender identity and expression. Persons who provide this usually claim these therapies can make any person heterosexual. The ways of doing it are counselling, prayer, religious rites, medication, and more. All approaches are based on pseudo-scientific beliefs of the providers that any expression of gender or sexual orientation of queer people is abnormal and needs to be cured. In other words, practitioners of conversion therapy believe that people from the queer community are suffering from an illness that needs to be cured. But by this therapy practitioners provide their depression and anxiety, which leads to drug use and in some cases suicide.

Methods of conversion therapy and what harm can it cause?

 Talk therapies are one of the most used therapy for converting any individual’s sexual orientation. It is being performed by licensed or unlicensed practitioners in an attempt to “treat” a person’s homosexuality or different gender identity. Sometimes they falsely claim that a person’s homosexuality or any other form of gender identity is a result of abuse and trauma which they suffered in childhood, or it’s a result of the person’s surroundings and upbringing. For changing gender expression of any individual some practitioners also try to teach them stereotypical behaviours of male and female,” aversion therapy” is another commonly used conversion therapy, in this therapy, the practitioners use uncomfortable sensations like giving electric shocks and paralysis causing drugs.

 Medical therapy includes using medicines to correct deviant gender identity, in some cases, surgeries are done to neutralize sexual orientation. In some religions, homosexuality and other forms of gender expression are sometimes considered “evil.” To remove this evil conversion therapy is sometimes performed by clergy or other spiritual advisers by using anti-gay slurs and prayers. In extreme cases, it could also include using force, beating, food deprivation, and even exorcism. Conversion therapy can lead to less confidence, it affects an individual’s emotional or physical health severely. Many practitioners who provide this therapy claim to be qualified to provide conversion therapy are mostly not licensed, health practitioners or medical experts. According to The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health, 10% of the people from LGBTQ+  reported undergoing conversion therapy,78% among them reported it when they were under age 18[5]. Youth who reported undergoing conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not[6].

Conversion therapy and India

In 2018, homosexuality was decriminalized in India by the NavtejSingh johar case[7]. But the conduct towards the people from the queer community has not been very progressive even after that. In the judgment of S.Sushma v. commissioner of police,[8]  the Madras high court has prohibited conversion therapy. By this Tamilnadu has become the first state of India which has prohibited such unethical practice[9]. Although this verdict shows the progress of Indian society there still lies exigency for a particular law that would declare a nationwide ban of this harmful and discredited therapy. Currently, the persons from the LGBTQIA community get limited protection under the “Mental Health Care act of 2017”[10]. According to which, discrimination against any person based on sexual orientation or gender identity would be a criminal offence, act also says any medical professional can not treat any patient in case of not having “Informed consent” of that person. But there are some problems with placing persons of the LGBTQIA community under this act, the first problem is, this act is for mental health patients, just by the sexual orientation anyone cannot be deemed to be a mental health patient. The second issue with this act is the term “ Informed consent” is not well defined what if the person is either less educated or simply brainwashed by someone about their sexuality. The last thing, this mental health act leaves out parents who play an important role in cases of LGBTQIA people and imposes liability only on the state, and medical health practitioners, religious therapists, are also left out of the loop of liability. That’s why there should be a separate law regarding the ban of this inhumane and harmful conversion therapy. This idea of banning conversion therapy is also supported by the standards set by the international conventions which were signed by India.

CONCLUSION

The prevalence of conversion therapy in India even after being condemned by various international bodies such as the American Psychological Association and the Indian Psychiatric Society shows decriminalizing homosexuality was only one step that was made towards the acceptance of LGBTQIA persons. It’s a myth that sexuality is something that can be cured and being homosexual is an illness, non-criminalization of these practices affirms their thinking about it. Now it is high time to prevent the forceful application of such therapies it’s against the very principle of justice. Along with this, there is a need for sexuality and gender-based education for bringing a desired socio-economic change.

Author(s) Name: Aman Upadhyay (National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi)

References:

[1] Canada officially bans LGBT conversion therapy, makes it a punishable offence(2022) <https://www.wionews.com/world/canada-officially-bans-lgbt-conversion-therapy-makes-it-a-punishable-offence-443761> accessed 16 January 2022

[2] Amy Simonson, Canada bans conversion therapy, a practice Trudeau calls ‘despicable and degrading’ (2021) <https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/09/americas/canada-conversion-therapy-ban/index.html> accessed 16 January 2022

[3] Canadian Law Banning ‘Conversion Therapy’ Set to Go Into Effect <https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/06/world/canada/canada-conversion-therapy-law.html> accessed 17 January 2022

[4] Amy Simonson, Canada bans conversion therapy, a practice Trudeau calls ‘despicable and degrading’ –CNN(2021)<https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/09/americas/canada-conversion-therapy-ban/index.html> accessed 16 January 2022

[5] Shishira Sreenivas, What Is Conversion Therapy?(2021) <(https://www.equalitytexas.org/conversion-therapy/>  accessed  17 January 2022

[6] Ibid

[7]W.P.(Crl.) No. 76 of 2016

[8]W.P. NO.7284 OF 2021

[9] Bhavyata Kapoor ,India’s Hight Court bans conversion therapy: A much Needed Law(2021) <https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/06/bhavyata-kapoor-india-high-court-bans-conversion-therapy/> accessed 18 January 2022

[10] Mental health act 2017 <https://www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/2249> accessed 18 January 2022

Related Posts