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Civil Rights for all

Updated: Jan 18

The LGBTQIA+ community has been present among us since the human population can be documented. The awareness of this community is steadily increasing over the decades. However, acceptance is something society is struggling with- it’s been met with fear, anger, and even disgust instead of curiosity and empathy.

As with anything ‘new’, the community was initially considered abnormal and given “Psychiatric Treatment”. Homosexuality was a disorder, diagnosable under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 1952. It was under the sexual deviation section, classified within the "sociopathic personality disturbance" category of personality disorders.

They were not necessarily viewed as inhumane or deserving punishment, but the community was considered to have aberrant issues both in their biological makeup and in their psychological perception. This was considered progressive- to view them as humans with issues beyond their control at the time. The treatment for the ‘Mental Illness’, as it was deemed was called Conversion Therapy. Maybe it was well-intentioned, but the treatment reflected the very primitive and reductionistic understanding of the community. Psychiatrists sought to ‘cure’ them with long-term therapy and medications. Many experimental medical treatments led to an increasingly disturbed view of the community under the psychiatric lens- Ice-pick lobotomies, electroconvulsive therapies, and hormonal treatments. People undergoing such procedures showed increased rates of depression and even suicidal risk- being forced to change the way they feel and maybe dress up to ‘fit in’.

In 1957, homosexuality as a pathology was condemned through a study that gained a lot of support from the community. Consequently, in 1973, it was removed from the second edition of the DSM released by the American Psychiatric Association. Decriminalization followed, only in 2003 in the US.

The Indian Psychiatric Society, which was established in 1947, followed its American counterparts in their view of the community. However, the cultural acclimatization of homosexuality took a longer time within India. The IPS released its official statement about homosexuality on July 2, 2018.

They condemned the previous treatment methods and vocalized their stance on accepting sexual orientations and gender identities as normative. This helped further arguments for decriminalization.

Despite LGBTQIA+ being legal, social inclusivity has still not been implemented. The community is still denied basic housing, healthcare, and employment options owing to discrimination. Having no legal support to claim these basic amenities, the community continues to face backlash in society.

The recent debate about this issue has led to another official statement from the IPS regarding its position recently. The statement advocates civil rights for the community and furthers the need for an unbiased, discrimination-free environment for people who may face such adversities within their day-to-day experiences.

This position of the IPS in no doubt is another step towards a normative life for the LGBTQIA+ community on Indian soil. It hopefully leads to other powerful organizations stepping up and voicing their positions in this matter, furthering the civil rights movements for the Community!

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