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Priests ‘forcing LGBTI people to undergo conversion therapy’, MPs hear

Priests force children and adults into hormone and other conversion therapy treatments, which remain legal in Cyprus, with the aim of changing their sexual orientation and gender identity, MPs heard on Friday.

The house legal affairs committee discussed the need to criminalise conversion therapies against LGBTI people following a bill proposal by Akel MP Giorgos Koukoumas.

Members of the committee referred to “appalling allegations” and “shameful acts” which must be investigated and resolved immediately, while all stakeholders stressed the need for the legislation to be passed.

The representative of LGBTI people and theologian, Antonis Georgiou, spoke of testimonies by individuals where priests pressured homosexual people to get married and sending them to endocrinologists, pharmacies for Viagra and hormone treatments.

The church also performed exorcisms on LGBTI people, he told reporters.

He added that some of those people attempted suicide, while he condemned the treatments, and expressed the wish that they would soon be banned.

During the session, there were also complaints that parents were sending their children to psychiatrists, asking them to change their children’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

After hearing the allegations the chairman of the legal affairs committee, Nikos Tornaritis said parliament would not allow the Middle Ages to return in Cyprus and would not tolerate such actions.

He added the discussion of the issue would continue at the next session of the legal affairs committee to which representatives of the Church of Cyprus will be invited.

This “brutal practice”, which mainly targets children and women, relies on the notion that LGBTI+ people are sick and need to be treated, Koukoumas said in his statements.

He added Akel’s bill proposal received a positive response. It provides for sentences of up to two years for those who apply pseudo-therapy and sentences of up to three years when applied to minors or people who are in a vulnerable position due to mental health, Koukoumas explained.

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

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