National Medical Commission (NMC), the country’s apex medical education regulator, has modified six modules for forensic medicine and two for psychiatry taught to undergraduate medical students to make the education more friendly to LGBTQ+ community.
The modifications include removing sodomy and “lesbianism” from unnatural sexual offences, making a distinction between sexual fetishes such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, or masochism and mental disorders stemming from such atypical interests, and teaching that two-finger test for virginity is “unscientific, inhuman, and discriminatory.”
The modified module on virginity test states that students will be trained on “how to apprise courts about unscientific basis of these tests if court orders it”, instead of discussions on medico-legal importance of the hymen that continued to be taught in medical courses despite the Supreme Court ruling it out years ago.
“Some of the definitions and modules are remnants from British era. The changes have been made to make medical education in accordance of current laws,” said Dr Sudhir Gupta, HoD of Forensic Medicine at AIIMS, Delhi.
The modules also emphasise informed consent for sexual intercourse and discuss decriminalisation of adultery. The module for preparing a medico-legal report of a victim of sexual offence will include training on “sympathetic/empathetic” examination and interview of victims.
Changes to the modules in psychiatry focuses on study of the spectrum of gender and sexual orientations without considering them to be “psychosexual and gender identity disorders.” The students will be trained on human sexuality, gender dysphoria (distress resulting from a mismatch between a person’s biological sex and gender identity), intersex, and sexual dysfunctions.
Instead of being taught about psychosexual and gender identity disorders, students will be asked to “demonstrate understanding” for issues such as myths and misconceptions concerning LGBTQ+ community and psychosocial stressor they face.
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They will be trained to assess gender identity, understand how to discuss sexual orientation, and how to counsel the individuals and family members. Dr Rohan Krishnan, president, Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA), said: “These subjects are taught to students in their third year of medical education; earlier it used to be in second year. The competencies have been revised to make them more sympathetic towards the LGBT community.”
The changes were made on directions of Madras High Court. “An expert committee was formed by the Undergraduate Medical Education Board (under NMC) to address issues related to LGBTQIA+ community. The committee, after detailed discussion and deliberation, recommended modifications in competency based medical education curriculum,” according to a communication from NMC.
Medical doctor, educator, and transgender activist Dr Aqsa Shaikh said, “The NMC has revised the medical curriculum to make it less queer and trans-phobic.”
Dr Shaikh said, “The revised competencies have remove several problematic areas on directions of the High , such as not treating gender incongruence as a pathology. Now the ICD-10 (Latest international classification of diseases) also doesn’t recognise it as a disease. It says that the virginity tests are unscientific and adultery is no longer a crime. This will ensure that doctors of the future are trans-friendly and more understanding.”
She, however, also said, “Although the changes seem very good, implementation is likely to be a challenge. Are the current teachers even equipped to teach these competencies?”