The IPS statement emphasised that denying these rights to individuals on the LGBTQA spectrum could have adverse mental health consequences. The umbrella body of over 7,000 psychiatrists in India took the stance just before the highly anticipated Supreme Court hearing on the recognition of same-sex marriage, which is set to commence April 18.
In 2018, the IPS supported the decriminalisation of homosexuality and individuals on the LGBTQA spectrum, under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, by asserting that these orientations are not deviant, nor an illness, but rather, variants of normal sexuality.
Building on this stance, the IPS on Sunday reiterated its call for equal treatment of LGBTQA individuals in all aspects of life, including education, employment, housing, income, government or military service, access to healthcare, property rights, marriage, adoption, survivorship benefits, and more. The statement emphasised that there is no evidence to suggest that LGBTQA individuals cannot partake in any of these rights.
Dr Alka Subramanyam, an executive council member of IPS, said the organisation had thoroughly analysed data from the US, Canada, Scandinavian and several other countries where such family structures exist and found no evidence to contradict same-sex marriage or adoption.
“Our fundamental argument is that LGBTQA individuals cannot be discriminated against in terms of enjoying civil rights that are available to all citizens just because of their identity or orientation,” she said. The BYL Nair hospital doctor added that the mental health body went a step ahead and batted for adoption as a progressive step forward.
The body also recognised that if and when same-sex marriages are legalised, children adopted into same-gender families may face unique challenges, including stigma and discrimination. To address this, the organisation stressed on the importance of creating a gender-neutral and unbiased environment at home, and of sensitising the broader community.
“It is also of utmost importance that the family, community, school and society in general are sensitised to protect and promote the development of such a child, and prevent stigma and discrimination at any cost,” the body said. Roughly 34 countries allow adoption by same-sex couples.
Dr Amrit Pattojoshi of IPS said that marriage is an important institution and it should be accessible to people from all spectrum and gender identities. Following the decriminalisation of Section 377, many couples may consider marriage and adoption as the next natural step. “Marriage ensures that people have more rights and helps bring down the stigma and discrimination,” he said. According to him, a scientific body taking a stand could open up discussions and more acceptability.
On March 13, the Supreme Court referred a bunch of pleas seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriages to a five-judge constitution bench for adjudication, saying it is a “seminal issue” and an “important matter”.
Senior advocates, including N K Kaul, A M Singhvi and Menaka Guruswamy, argued that although the Navtej Johar judgment of 2018 decriminalised same-gender relations, members of the LGBTQ community are still discriminated against as they lack the right to marriage.