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Psychiatric association urges criminalisation of conversion therapies

Cyprus psychiatric association has recommended its members respect the gender identity and sexual orientation of their patients, following recent reports over conversion therapy incidents.

Conversion therapies remain legal in Cyprus. The psychiatric association urges legislation to criminalise them as has been done in a number of countries.

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

For psychiatry, homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder since 1973 when it was removed from the DSM-5, the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.

It has also become socially accepted that “human sexuality and gender identity can take many physiological forms” added the letter, which was signed by the president Lambros Samartzis and secretary Louiza Veresie.

The psychiatrists explained that pseudo-conversion therapies “have no scientific or bioethical justification”, and 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.

Furthermore, “there is no documentation that gender identity and sexual orientation can be changed by such interventions,” the letter said.

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

The issue of conversion therapies was discussed at the house legal affairs committee earlier this month following a bill proposal by Akel MP Giorgos Koukoumas.

During the session, the representative of LGBTI people and theologian, Antonis Georgiou, revealed there were people, including minors, who were pressured into heterosexual marriage, hormone treatments or to take medicine like Viagra by priests.

The Church is also carrying out exorcisms on LGBTI people, he added.

Akel’s bill proposal 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.

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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