WHO drops being transgender from list of mental disorders

Activists and doctors welcome the resolution

May 29, 2019 10:45 pm | Updated 10:45 pm IST - New Delhi

The World Health Organization (WHO) will no longer categorise being transgender as a “mental disorder”.

The change was brought in after a major resolution to amend the WHO health guidelines was approved earlier this week on May 25.

Health care needs

The global health organisation said, “Evidence is now clear that gender incongruence is not a mental disorder, and indeed classifying it as such can cause enormous stigma for people who are transgender. Also there remain significant health care needs that can best be met if the condition is coded under the ICD (International Classification of Diseases).” Gender incongruence has now been listed under sexual health conditions.

The WHO added that a “significant change in the mental disorders section of ICD-11 is the attempt of statisticians to simplify the codes as much as possible to allow for coding of mental health conditions by primary health care providers rather than by mental health specialists. This will be a critical move since the world still has a scarcity of mental health specialists — upto 9 out of 10 people needing mental health care don’t receive it.”

Health and human rights activists are now hoping that the ICD-11 will be implemented by the WHO’s 194 member states over the next three years. The WHO’s removal of “gender identity disorder” from its diagnostic manual will have a liberating effect on transgender people worldwide, they said.

“In India, psychiatrists at an individual level have stopped treating transgender as a mental health condition. With this move, the Indian government will have to make the changes in the medical systems and laws that require this now officially outdated diagnosis,” said Dr. Zakirhusain Shaikh, assistant professor, Department of Community Medicine, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research.

Akkai Padmashali, social activist, said, “The Indian government now has to ensure that this is implemented in totality. This may be a milestone, but there is still quite a way to go.”

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