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Fractured narratives of psy disciplines and the LGBTQIA+ rights movement in India: A critical examination

Sudarshan R Kottai, Shubha Ranganathan


Abstract

In 2018, a day before the Supreme Court of India commenced hearing the curative petition on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (which criminalised “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”), the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) issued an official statement that homosexuality is not a mental pathology. In 2014, a year after the top court recriminalised homosexuality, the then IPS president had termed it as a pathology requiring treatment. By examining articles on LGBTQIA+ rights published in two flagship Indian journals in psychiatry and clinical psychology, position statements by professional bodies, and international and national developments in human rights mechanisms, we argue that psychiatry’s voice for human rights protection of the marginalised has been akin to whispering sweet nothings in tune with the juridico-penal system. In turn, clinical psychology appears to huddle with biomedical psychiatry without raising its voice against coercive and traumatising practices within mainstream technocratic psychiatry. We seek to explore the troubled relationship between mainstream psy disciplines and LGBTQIA+ persons characterised by psychological evasion: failure of mainstream psy disciplines to take up sensitive, socio-political issues like same sex love in a broader human rights framework leading to individualisation- pathologisation complex which further side-lines persons living on the margins of society.

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