More on treating homosexuality as a sickness: Homosexuality is punishable in India

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7450.1261-b (Published 20 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1261
  1. Vikas Dhikav, resident (vikasdhikav{at}hotmail.com)
  1. All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi 110029, India

    EDITOR—Twisselmann summarised the debate on bmj.com about treating homosexuality as a sickness.1 The differing views of doctors and society about homosexuality are well known; in India both society and doctors seem to share the same perceptions, which is worrying because of their strength and the repercussions on the homosexual community.2 In India homosexuality is punishable even between two consenting adults: the laws of colonial times are yet to change. Thus homosexuals have no special rights. Mostly, they meet in public toilets and clandestine clubs.

    It would be interesting to learn to what extent the prevailing opinions about homosexuality affect the way in which psychiatrists and doctors in general deal with homosexual patients. Indian psychiatrists often have negative perceptions, as do the people at large. Use of aversive options such as electroconvulsive therapy for “treating gays” is not unusual here.

    Most people are bewildered and taken aback after discovering a person's homosexual preference. Highly derogatory local terms, such as chakka (eunuch) and gaandu (one who has anal sex), are used for them. Homosexuality in women (lesbianism) is comparatively well received and not resented in the same way.

    The following offers a possible solution. Doctors need to have firm opinions of their own, uninfluenced by society, and they should practise rational medicine. Transparent dialogue can be helpful, especially with parents who often force doctors to “treat” homosexuals.2 This might help prevent denigration of the over 50 million strong community of homosexuals in India.


    • Competing interests None declared.


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