Dr Indira Sharma
A leading Indian psychiatrist has caused a stir after claiming that homosexuality is unnatural and can be cured.
Dr Indira Sharma, a lecturer at Banaras Hindu University and the President of the Indian Psychiatric Society, made her outdated and widely discredited views known at the body’s recent annual meeting.
She later repeated her statements to the Times of India.
“The manner in which homosexuals have brought the talk of sex to the roads makes people uncomfortable. It’s unnatural. Our society doesn’t talk about sex. Heterosexuals don’t talk about sex. It’s a private matter,” she said.
Sharma went on to explain that in her speech she had referred to gay people who have not accepted their sexuality. “There are some who are comfortable, but there are many who are not,” she said.
“The latter should realise they can get help (from psychiatrists). Some of them may even be able to change their orientation,” Sharma told the newspaper.
Sharma’s comments come at a sensitive time for LGBTI Indians. In December, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that a previous 2009 court decision striking down the criminalisation of homosexuality was invalid and that the law could only be repealed by parliament.
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and potentially harmful. Instead, they believe that therapy should be used to help people accept their sexuality.
The South African Society of Psychiatrists says that it “opposes any psychiatric treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual”. It has also warned that this kind of therapy “runs the risk of harming patients by causing depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviour”.