Activists have called out a value education textbook published by St Berchmans College, Changanacherry, which states that ‘homosexuality can be overcome’. The course is compulsory and elaborately teaches that homosexuality can be ‘overcome through treatment, spiritual life and a sense of morality’.
The Kerala College
For St Berchmans College, Changanacherry, time seems to have moved backward. The American Psychiatric Association issued a resolution that it no longer considered homosexuality a mental disorder in 1973. The World Health Organisation did the same in 1990. Thirty years after the WHO said homosexuality is not a mental disorder, a textbook that is assigned for a ‘value education’ course is homophobic and states that homosexuality can be ‘overcome through treatment, spiritual life and a sense of morality’.
This came to light when Akshay Prabha was casually going through his cousin Anil’s textbook. Akshay Prabha is a psychologist based in Changanassery. Moreover, he posted the relevant portion of the textbook and pointed at the backwardness of the management. Akshay also wondered how student organizations have failed to notice this.
He said: “It is a compulsory course for the students. This is dangerous on multiple levels. For one, there was a stream of pseudo psychologists who had earlier claimed to ‘spiritually cure’ homosexuality. This would encourage more such pseudo ‘treatments’. For another, there could be homosexual students in the college who have still not come out and are already going through oppression and getting very little support.”
The textbook in question
The text in the textbook when translated reads, “Homosexuality leads to sexual anarchy. This is a character flaw and destroys the divinity of sex.” Akshay also pointed out that the chapter very clearly violates a UGC notification. The UGC notification is “Any act of physical or mental (including bullying and exclusion targeted at another student on the grounds of sexual orientation constitutes to ragging.”
The last update to the textbook was as recent as 2016.
Akshay finally stated, “I am a psychologist and this is not a mental condition. These misconceptions need changing. Also, think about the situation of queer students study this chapter and look down upon themselves. It is nearly two years since India decriminalised section 377 that had criminalised homosexuality. Even the Pope has declared his support for homosexual people. Then why is the sun not shining on this college (management)?”
Akshay hasn’t raised an official complaint yet because of the lockdown. He said, “During this lockdown period, I couldn’t have done anything more. It’s high time they change their syllabus.”
An earlier protest
There was a protest of sorts in the college a couple of years ago. Student Federation of India–led union touched upon the subject in a bi-weekly magazine. A former student stated, “It was in 2017-18. For the third issue of the magazine, we carried an article about the value education classes and their regressive ideas about same-sex love.”
After the above protest, there was another protest in the college. A new dining hall was opened and separate sections to eat were created for male and female students. “The union held a strong protest against it. They also addressed the issue of the value education classes during the protest,” said the former student.
However, the value education classes continued. Even first-year and second-year degree students now have a weekly class on the subject. A student of the college said, “In the first year, Catholic and non-Catholic students were given separate classes for VE. What happened was the teacher who came to take classes would not open the textbook. He would instead talk of general topics – like a film discussion or perhaps a lesson on nuclear families. So the book and this part about same-sex love never got discussed. If perhaps the subject was touched upon, there would have been a discussion and students might have protested.”
Many queer activists and groups across Kerala have also raised their voices against the chapter.
ചങ്ങനാശ്ശേരി എസ്.ബി കോളേജിൽ ബിരുദതലത്തിൽ പഠിപ്പിക്കുന്ന പുസ്തകത്തിലെ സ്വവർഗപ്രേമികൾക്ക് എതിരായുള്ള പരാമർശങ്ങൾ വൻ…
Queerala, a Kerala based queer activist group posted this on their Facebook recently. The caption states, “Protest against homophobic content in Changanassery S.B College text book.”
Another recent post of theirs stated, “When the morals of the curriculum designers are inhuman and uninformed. Shame on the officials at Changanaserry SB College.”
Previously, Sameera Mahamud Jahagirdar, anesthesiologist at JIPMER had complained that MBBS textbooks are homophobic. She had reviewed various MBBS textbooks. She had complained to the Medical Council of India (MCI) for the removal of these words.
It is important that people in India and all over the world realize that Homosexuality is not a disease or a mental condition. It is a way of life and people need to accept this fact.