LGBTQI+ and medicine, in the Land of the Pure

pride

(Leighann Renee, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Ikram Khaliq, a final year medical student at Army Medical College (AMC) in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. IFMSA delegate at the United Nations 62nd Commission on Statusof Women. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


We are not ready. Most healthcare providers are not prepared to deliver dignified and non-discriminatory healthcare.

On the 15th of June 2019, screenshots of messages were circulated on Facebook pages, like Queeristan, and in secret groups that serve the LGBTQI+ community in Pakistan. These messages warned LGBTQI+ people to stay clear of a therapist, named Dr. Imrana Shah, who works at the National Hospital in Lahore. She was accused, by multiple people, of breaching patient confidentiality by outing people to their parents and offering to cure their homosexuality.

According to the victims, this move strengthened their parents’ belief that homosexuality is a curable disease and led to demands that they attend conversion therapy. Dr. Shah was able to do this and walk away with no consequences because there are no proper laws in place in Pakistan that protect a patient in such circumstances and revoke the physician’s license to practice. The laws in Pakistan, in fact, criminalize homosexuality and this deters any victim from seeking legal action.

Pakistan is not ready. Pakistan was not ready when 2 years back, in a psychiatry clerkship in medical school, a professor preached homophobia to my class by presenting a case of a homosexual boy who was brought in by his family to the Armed Forces Institute of Mental Health (AFIMH) in Rawalpindi.

The professor went on about how homosexuality was a mental illness, clearly failing to draw a boundary between her personal Islamic beliefs and her profession, and how she treated the boy using electroconvulsive therapy. She did not know that a scared, closeted homosexual boy sat before her that very day. What was even more troubling was how tens of future healthcare professionals sat around me and agreed with everything the professor had to say.

And Pakistan is not ready today. Only a few days back, an Infectious Diseases specialist walked into our lecture hall to talk about HIV/AIDS and all the students in the room snickered at the only gay boy. The professor went on to confess that she had trouble dealing with HIV-positive patients when she first started practicing because of her personal beliefs. The disease may as well still be called Gay-related Immune Deficiency because the attitude of physicians has definitely not changed in this part of the world.

So, when I read the question asking if we are prepared to deliver dignified and non-discriminatory healthcare, the obvious answer was no. But a lack of preparedness on the part of healthcare providers should not stop the LGBTQI+ community from demanding that this noble goal be met. The fact is that the world has never been ready for change. The world was not ready when Marsha P. Johnson threw the first brick that started the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement in the United States of America.

Only recently, I was happily surprised to hear of the first LGBTQIA-friendly mental health clinic in Islamabad. Who would have ever thought that such a clinic would open up in a largely homophobic nation like Pakistan? I see such acts of rebellion from the LGBTQI+ community and its allies each day. The majority of Pakistani physicians might still not be prepared to accept people like me, but we shall demand space and equal rights, including access to healthcare, every single day. Change, however slow, is coming.

About the author

Ikram Khaliq is a final year medical student at Army Medical College (AMC) in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He is SCORA Director at AMC’s local council of the IFMSA. He is head editor of the college magazine. He is aspiring to become a medical specialist, HIV/AIDS researcher and human rights activist.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

How digital entrepreneurs will help shape the world after the COVID-19 pandemic

Why home is the least safe place to be a woman

The punishment gap: how workplace mistakes hurt women and minorities most

EU Summit’s major takeaway: a handkerchief cannot save Greece from austerity

Digital Single Market: Survey shows Europeans are well aware of rules against unjustified geo-blocking

Chile ups foreign bribery enforcement but flawed case resolutions are insufficient to ensure transparency and accountability

What makes a great CEO? The people they surround themselves with

How Japan can take the lead with an ageing workforce

EU confronts environmental threats as global leaders attempt to revive the global sentiment at NYC climate week

Blockchain is not a magic bullet for security. Can it be trusted?

Here’s a reason to feel cheerful – the world is full of Good Samaritans

3 charts that show how attitudes to climate science vary around the world

Mental disorders: a raging fire tearing apart the Moroccan society

FROM THE FIELD: One teen’s journey from refugee camp to US school principal

Humanity ‘at a crossroads’ as damage to planet poses growing risk to health, UN environment agency warns

These countries are the most peaceful – in 3 charts

The European Sting @ Mobile World Congress 2014, Creating What’s Next for the World. Can EU Policy follow?

Protectionism doesn’t stand a chance in the age of connectivity

Brexit: No withdrawal agreement without a “backstop” for the Northern Ireland/Ireland border

MWC 2016 LIVE: EC adds Brazil to partner tally

Why are so few women buying into Bitcoin?

The community and a decent working conditions for the young health workforce

Why we are using these custom-built drones to collect whale snot

Cobalt mining is a global scandal. We must build an ethical battery

Millions of Bangladeshi children at risk from climate crisis, warns UNICEF

Water inequality used to be a developing world problem only. Not any more

Without tackling ‘gross inequalities’ major issues will go unsolved, warns UN rights chief Bachelet

New Erasmus: more opportunities for disadvantaged youth

Mediterranean and Black Seas: Commission proposes fishing opportunities for 2020

‘More time’ agreed for buffer zone, to spare three million Syrian civilians in Idlib

Who cares more about taxpayers? The US by being harsh on major banks or the EU still caressing them?

‘Preserve, revitalize and promote’ indigenous languages, or lose a ‘wealth of traditional knowledge’, UN chief says

E-energy declaration: will energy digitalization be beneficial to the climate?

MWC 2016 LIVE: Telenor CEO calls on operators to embrace Mobile Connect initiative

Turkey’s Erdogan provokes the US and the EU by serving jihadists and trading on refugees

UN News 2018 Recap: In Case You Missed It

The importance of the strategy of health of a country working in accordance with the theory

Europe is designing satellites that ‘surf’ their way past space debris

Dare to be vulnerable, and three other lessons in leadership

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

These 4 Nordic countries hold the secret to gender equality

Can privatisation be the panacea for the lack of growth in Europe?

‘Do something’; UN relief chief urges Security Council action to stop the Syrian carnage unfolding ‘in front of your eyes’

Abuse of authority provisions adopted by the Senate raise concerns over Brazil’s capacity to ensure independence of prosecutors and judges in fighting corruption

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Stop Finning – Stop the trade’ initiative

Youth unemployment: No light at the end of the tunnel

Veteran public official from Portugal elected to lead UN migration agency

Lithuania finds the ways to maintain its energy security

UN Envoy urges Burundi leaders to ‘seize opportunities for national unity and peace’

UN condemns attack that leaves one ‘blue helmet’ dead in Central African Republic

COVID-19: MEPs free up over €3 billion to support EU healthcare sector

European Elections: “Web giants” are urging users to vote

EU27 leaders unite on Brexit Guidelines ahead of “tough negotiations” with Theresa May

UN chemical weapons watchdog adds new powers to assign blame, following attacks

UN’s Bachelet rejects Sri Lankan official’s ‘spin’ on Human Rights Council encounter, urges reforms

‘Mosques should be safe havens, not sites of terror’, says Guterres announcing UN plan to help safeguard religious sites

Texting is a daily source of stress for 1/3 of people – are you one of them?

COVID-19: EU co-finances the delivery of more protective equipment to China

Opposite cultures: Should it be a problem?

Building a stronger Europe: new initiatives to further boost role of youth, education and culture policies

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s