Torture, hypnotism as 'corrective therapy' for LGBT persons in some Kerala hospitals

Many hospitals break all protocols of psychiatry and subject patients to everything from physical torture to hypnotism

June 26, 2019 11:15 pm | Updated June 27, 2019 12:08 pm IST - KOLLAM

Kiran (name changed) was first taken to a psychiatrist, an expert in ‘straightening queer traits’, some two years ago. The elderly doctor promised a simple treatment, but what the 24-year-old underwent at the hospital was nothing short of a nightmare. Kiran says he was totally traumatised after the month-long therapy that involved hallucinogenic drugs, hormone injections, and continuous exposure to porn.

“Later, they told my parents that I have been rewired as a male and they took me back happily. I was too scared to speak then and even today the memory sends shivers down my spine,” he says.

And to go by the accounts of several others, it is no stray incident as many private hospitals in the State use primitive and unscientific methods to cure gender dysphoria. Despite the government and many NGOs trying to support the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community, these hospitals function in many districts breaking all protocols of psychiatry and subjecting the patients to everything from physical torture to hypnotism.

A hospital in Idukki is quite notorious for this treatment, offering all types of ‘corrective therapies for the genderqueer’.

No evidence

Riyaz (name changed) says he came to know about this hospital when the medical team paid a house visit. “They gave me an injection to relax and when I opened my eyes I was at this hospital tied to a bed inside a cell. Later, a couple of men tried to strip me and when I protested they started beating me. They cut my hair and I was asked to take a shower in the company of other men, which was a very humiliating experience for me. They gave me antipsychotics and the men continued to harass me sexually. Next time I saw the doctor, I told him that I have been cured.”

And according to those who have undergone treatment at the same hospital, the authorities are very keen on not keeping any incriminating evidence.

“I was in for a shock when I accidentally saw my file. According to that, I was suffering from depression with strong suicidal impulses and they had fabricated an entire history. Another person’s file said he was a drug addict,” he adds.

Alok (name changed) is a single child and he agreed to visit a hospital in Thrissur as he felt the doctors would help convince the parents. “To my utter shock, the senior psychiatrist told me that my condition can be cured. So far there have been counselling and attempts at brainwashing, but next Friday I am supposed to meet the endocrinologist and get shots to boost my testosterone levels. If they force me, I have decided to report this,” he says.

Long-term impact

Prijith P.K., secretary, Queerythm, a community-based organisation that started the first LGBT helpline in Kerala, says psychiatrists working in several famous private hospitals are involved. “Though the hospitals insist it’s against their policy and they are providing no such treatment, the stories shared by our community members prove otherwise. There is this Kozhikode-based psychologist/ sexologist who is very popular on social media and he claims he can cure all issues related to gender identity.’’

He adds there are community members who have been given psychiatric medicines and even shock treatment as part of conversion therapy, leading to long-term complications. We have started collecting data of such doctors and hospitals. But as of now, all we can do is spread awareness,” he says.

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