Malathy Iyer,TNN | Jan 21, 2014,
“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,” the Banaras Hindu University teacher told TOI on phone.
In December 2013, the Supreme Court had overturned a ruling of the Delhi high court decriminalizing same-sex relations. The judgment was part of a panel discussion at the IPS annual meet in Pune between January 16 and 19. Sharma, whose tenure as association president ended with the meeting, was on the panel.
“Throughout her speech, she had a condescending tone. The underlying message was homosexuality is unnatural,” said a psychiatrist. The doctor said Sharma wanted “homo clubs” to be closed down, but Sharma denied this. “I am unaware of homo club being a term at all. It may exist in America. I would never use such words,” Sharma said, adding some doctors were fabricating stories.
At the last IPS annual conference in January 2013, Sharma as president had claimed early marriage “preferably in early 20s or as soon as the boy gets employed” could curb violence against women. Early marriages were recommended so that “sexual needs are satisfied in an appropriate manner”.
Asked about the speech, Sharma said her main concern was for homosexuals aren’t comfortable with their sexuality. “There are some who are comfortable, but there are many who are not. The latter should realize they can get help (from psychiatrists). Some of them may even be able to change their orientation,” Sharma said. She added that those comfortable with their orientation should be made aware that their behaviour was causing a lot of uneasiness in society.
TOI spoke to two psychiatrists who were chairpersons of the discussion in which Sharma was involved. Chennai-based Dr Siva Nambi said Sharma’s views were her own and Delhi-based Dr Avdesh Sharma maintained she hadn’t made statements against gays.
“Doctors have to understand that we can’t intervene unless a person comes to us saying he is uncomfortable with his sexual orientation,” said Nambi.
Psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said, “Same-sex orientation needs to be accepted as normal. Sexual orientation has different dimensions and should be tackled compassionately. This will help many come out of the closet. Mental health professionals need to accept the differences and bring down distress.”
Palav Patankar, a spokesperson for gay rights, said, “Many doctors in India graduated when medical curriculum hadn’t been updated. Psychiatrists need to keep abreast of social changes. Doctors should go back to books and stop doing disservice to society.”