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Press Statement: Mental Health Professionals criticize Union Health Minister’s Statement on Homosexuality

July 6, 2011: We are a group of qualified mental health professionals practicing as psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, behavioural psychologists, social workers and counsellors from across the country. We regret the statement made by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday where he called homosexuality a “disease”, as being “unnatural”, and having “come from western shores”.

Scientific evidence shows that homosexuality is a natural variant of human sexuality and is not a mental disorder or disease. Homosexuality as a specific diagnostic category was removed from the World Health Organisation’s ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders published in 1992 and from the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV Guidelines in 1973.

In the course of our professional lives, we have interacted with hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons across the country, and it is a complete misconception that homosexuality is “western”. We feel that the Delhi High Court’s 2009 judgment decriminalizing homosexuality removed a major source of stigma and discrimination faced by LGBT persons in India and was rooted in a concrete understanding of the mental and psychological harm that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code inflicts on LGBT persons.

The unscientific claims made by the Union Health Minister, if left unchallenged, will lead to irreparable harm to LGBT persons. His subsequent denial has not helped matters either. We call upon Mr. Azad to retract his statements and issue an unambiguous clarification.

1.     Dr. A. K. Kala, Clinical Director, North India Psychiatry Centre, Ludhiana

2.     Dr. Alok Sarin, Sitaram Bhatia Institute of Research, Delhi

3.     Dr. Debashis Chatterjee, Founder Ishwar Sankalpa and Member, Indian Psychiatric Society, Kolkata

4.     Jolly Laha, Psychotherapist, Kolkata

5.     Dr. K. S. Jacob, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Christian Medical College, Vellore

6.     Dr. Kaustubh Joag, Psychiatrist and Associate Member, Indian Psychiatry Society, Pune

7.     Dr. Pratap Kumar Rath, Coordinator, Centre of Advanced Study in Psychology, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar

8.     Magdalene Jeyarathnam, Founder-Director, Centre for Counselling, Chennai

9.     Radhika Chandiramani, Clinical Psychologist, New Delhi

10.  Ratnaboli Ray, Co-founder National Alliance of Access to Justice for People with Mental Illness (NAJMI) and Founder, Managing Trustee, Anjali Mental Health Rights Organization

11.  Sarbani Das Roy, Honorary Secretary, Ishwar Sankalpa, Kolkata

12.  Dr. Soumitra Pathare, Psychiatrist, Pune

13.  Dr. Subir Kumar Hajra Chaudhuri, Institute of Psychiatry, Kolkata

14.  Dr. Vikram Patel, Sangath, Goa

Contact: Pawan Dhall, 98312 88023, Kunal Chowdhury, 98746 53141, Coalition of Rights Based Groups, West Bengal

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