The Supreme Court’s verdict, decriminalising homosexual sex between consenting adults, on Thursday brought cheer to a select group in the medical community as it did to everyone supporting the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) movement against section 377 of the IPC. The verdict, for this group of eight doctors in the city, brought hope that their fraternity would now shed their apprehension in treating LGBTQ patients.
“Medical community had not been open about homosexuality. It is only in the last decade that psychiatric society has started accepting that homosexuality is not a disease. But there have always been professionals who have had apprehensions in treating this community. There is a certain homophobia in everybody,” said psychiatrist Avinash D’souza, who has been holding awareness sessions on the queer community since years.
On Thursday, Justice D Y Chandrachud, part of a five-judge bench, said human sexuality cannot be reduced to a “binary formulation”. He asked the medical community to sensitise itself about the rights of the LGBTQ community, instead of trying to change what is not a disease.
Radiation oncologist Dr Prasad Dandekar, who identifies himself as gay, said: “A senior doctor, with whom I have worked, humiliated me some time ago on Facebook saying homosexuals are weird people and I would never allow my children to mingle with them. I realised there is a need to sensitise health care professionals.”
In March, Dandekar started a loose group of like-minded doctors with a single aim — to make doctors aware about LGBTQ community, their mental health problems and physical needs, and to work closely with NGOs supporting the queer community.
The group has eight members, all specialists in their fields, from government and private hospitals. They call themselves ‘Allies of Queer Community’.
In Bandra, the group had initially scheduled a doctors’ session in a small auditorium that had a capacity to host 150 guests. Later, the registrations touched 750. “We then had to book a larger auditorium,” Dandekar said.
Doctors had myths, that homosexuality is unnatural and is curable. Few doctors expressed hesitation in treating the queer community.
Transgender and activist Gauri Sawant said the community faced discrimination when it comes to access to health facilities and job opportunities. “For transgenders, homosexuality is an identity, and we can’t hide it,” she said.
Data from National Aids Control Organisation showed there were 12,598 men who had sex with men, and 3,532 transgenders registered for screening of HIV in Mumbai. Apart from support in preventing HIV, the community needs counsel support from doctors.
Dr Nilen Shah, head of the psychiatry department at Sion hospital, said the cases of parents bringing in their children for treatment of homosexuality had reduced significantly. The Allies of Queer Community, however, pointed out that few doctors indulged in treating homosexuality for financial gains. The group is also trying to sensitise students and teachers in schools.