Psychiatrists seek criminalisation of conversion therapies

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The Cyprus Psychiatric Association told its members to respect their patients’ gender identity and sexual orientation, keeping away from conversion therapies.

The association’s intervention comes after Cyprus MPs heard LGTBQ+ rights activists, psychiatrists and government officials reveal evidence of ‘conversion therapies’ carried out by priests, doctors and psychologists.

Conversion therapies remain legal in Cyprus, but the psychiatric association also urges legislation to criminalise them, as has been done in several countries.

In its letter, the association said it rejects and “considers unethical” any ‘conversion therapy’ referring to them as “pseudo therapies based on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder and that homosexuals need to change their sexual orientation”.

It further notes that psychiatry does not consider homosexuality a mental disorder since 1973 when it was removed from the DSM-5, mental disorders’ diagnostic and statistical manual.

The psychiatrists’ association said so-called conversion therapies “have no scientific or bioethical justification.

“On the contrary, there is scientific evidence that such efforts can be detrimental to human mental health, and medical research in this direction has been assessed as bioethically unacceptable”.

According to the association, people with different gender identities and/or sexual orientations can benefit from supportive, affirming, and reinforcing interventions.

Conversion therapies came to the forefront after it was discussed at the House’s Legal Committee on Monday, where LGTBQ+ rights organisation Accept reported it has evidence for hundreds of conversion therapies.

Accept said these include exorcism, hormone therapy, forced marriages, encouragement to use Viagra, prayer and repentance.

During the debate, a representative for Accept Cyprus revealed people, including minors, was pressured into heterosexual marriage, hormone treatments, or taking medicine like Viagra by priests.

Accept’s representative reported that a priest has confessed to having pushed more than 100 gay men into marrying a woman, encouraging them to take Viagra to perform their ‘marital duties’.

The Church is also carrying out exorcisms on LGBTI people, as confirmed by the advisor to the President of the Republic on issues of Multiculturalism, Acceptance and Respect for Diversity, Costas Gavrielides.

The official referred to a case where a young man was tied to a chair by his parents, who had called in a priest to perform an exorcism to ‘convert’ him.

He told MPs that was the most extreme case he had heard of, while authorities have reports of cases where parents called in psychologists to convince their child to ‘change’.

Main opposition party AKEL tabled a bill proposal providing sentences of up to two years for those who promote conversion therapies and sentences of up to three years when applied to minors or people in a vulnerable position due to mental health.

Conversion therapies have already been criminalised in Malta, Germany, France, Canada, several US states, some regions of Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Norway and New Zealand.