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How Conversion Therapy Led To A Bisexual Woman’s Death In India

How Conversion Therapy Led To A Bisexual Woman’s Death In India

The internet is outraged because of the shocking death of a young bisexual woman soon after her parents forced her into conversion therapy. 

The 21-year-old woman from Kerala who committed suicide claimed that she had been taken to multiple de-addiction centres over three months against her will, in an effort to cure her of her non-heterosexual orientation by her parents. This shocking incident has drawn attention to the dubious practice of conversion therapy practised by mental health professionals in the country.

About Anjana:

Anjana Hareesh was a student at Kannur University. She came out only a few months ago to her parents as bisexual. She was also commonly known as Chinnu Sulfikar. Prior to the lockdown, Anjana and her friends had gone to Goa for a week-long vacation. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown that ensued, Anjana continued to stay at Goa with her buddies. Her friends found her body in Goa, hanging on a tree near their resort.  Before her suspicious death, her parents allegedly forced her into conversion therapy for months. Anjana’s parents sent her to Palakkad and Coimbatore drugs rehabilitation treatment in the past. 

Anjana’s torment because of Conversion Therapy:

Before her death this student posted a live video on her Facebook. In the video, she revealed her subjugation into conversion therapy at two ‘de-addiction’ centers by her family. As well as physical attacks, after she came out to them. She also spoke about her solitary confinement at a mental healthcare facility. Since, her parents believed this would cure her “bisexuality”. 

 “I really do not know what to say and what to do. Medicine makes me dizzy, and I am not able to see or talk properly. I have become robotic,” she quoted in that live video.  

Posted by Chinnu Sulficker on Thursday, March 12, 2020

She also reached out to Sahayathrika. It is a human rights organisation working for LGBTQIA+ persons who have been assigned female at birth in Kerala.

As per her friends, Anjana suffered both domestic abuse and mental torture at home. This led to her mental disturbance and suicidal thoughts. While the authorities await the post mortem report, there is speculation of foul play that may have led to her death.

Sahayarthrika:

Deepa Vasudevan is the co-founder of Kerala-based Sahayathrika. It is one of the few organizations that work with lesbian/bisexual women and transmen. They dealt with many hostile and unsupportive institutions in the process. 

She has quoted to The Hindustan Times, “Parents of queer or trans people often send them to psychiatrists or psychologists to “cure” them of their sexual orientation or gender identity, to make them “normal.” We have seen this practice in many of our crisis interventions.”

According to the Mental Health Act 2017, an adult would not be treated for any mental health condition without their consent. In a case where it happens that the person cannot make their own decision, then a representative can make their decision. It is possible to solely nominate this representative by the person requiring the treatment. 

India’s stance on homosexuality:

India reached many major milestones in 2018. Specifically in terms of invalidating part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. But the general public is still very clueless about homosexuality. Our culture, media, and stereotypes, are the prime reasons that nurture this belief in the masses. Godmen such as Baba Ramdev, had also claimed a few years ago that yoga could cure homosexuality. 

There have been multiple reports regarding treatments like shock therapy, antipsychotic medicines. Furthermore in some cases, in the name of curing queerness, surgeries happened. With her news surfacing, a relevant discussion began about the queer rights regarding conversion therapy. 

Conversion therapy is an illegal practice based on irrational beliefs. It’s nothing but preposterous claims about converting homosexuals into heterosexuals. Achieved through several spiritual, medical, and psychological interventions obviously.  

What happens now:

Following the recent events, a Mumbai-based mental health professional requested The Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists to “condemn all forms of conversion therapy”. Along with “charting out guidelines for social justice informed ’affirmative practices’ about approaching persons with gender and sexual diversity”. It would take a lot more than this to tackle issues relating to homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia. All we can do right now is to educate and familiarize society. Sure, it will take a long time and a lot of effort. But it definitely will save a lot of innocent lives.

Speaking to The Quint, Equal Rights activist Harish Iyer believes that the death of Anjana is a “nasty reminder” of the phobias that exist in today’s society. Iyer identifies Anjana as a “victim of bi-phobia.”

“Families are supposed to support their children and are supposed to make them stay safe. But what if your own family turns antagonistic? What if the same family that is supposed to support you, turns violent against you? And violent against you to such an extent that you take your life?”, added Harish. 

Representation of LGBTQ:

The honest efforts of Indian cinema to portray the LGBTQ society rightly, especially in recent times, is witnessed. Especially in recent times. However, most of them have previously tried to fix stereotypes in the queer community. The majority of the Indians do get influenced by what they see on the big screen. We should make use of such platforms, to bring about – if not major – at least a small degree of change. Alas, many of us still remain ignorant and naive regarding the same. 

Next Read: Mr. Gay World 2020 Is A COVID-19 Survivor

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