Reactions continued to mount on Wednesday over the proposed amendments by far-right party Elam to the bill on the criminalisation of “conversion therapies” that use pharmaceutical, counselling, behavioural, psychiatric, psychotherapeutic and psychological interventions to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Currently, there are priests, health professionals and other people carrying out conversion ‘therapies’ to LGBTI+ individuals in Cyprus, while the latest bill will seek to criminalise the matter, making perpetrators face up to three years in jail.

The changes proposed by Elam involve allowing these therapies in cases where there is consent from the individual, as well as granting priests the freedom to do as they please and exempting them from any penalties stipulated by the law.

The issue was discussed on Wednesday again at the house legal affairs committee, where the association of Cypriot psychologists and the Pancyprian Psychotherapist Association submitted memorandums against the proposal of Elam.

Speaking after the meeting, the deputy head of the committee opposition Disy MP Fotini Tsiridou said that the party agrees with amendments submitted by opposition Akel to make conversion therapies illegal.

Meanwhile, Elam MP, Sotiris Ioannou, said that “Akel’s proposal to criminalise conversion therapies includes wishes, prayers and hormone therapies, which in other cases are legal and an inalienable right of every citizen.”

He added that Elam’s amendment is a cure to the vagueness and arbitrary criminalisation of traditional religious and medical practices, as is also the case in the few countries of the European Union, which promoted similar legislation.

According to Ioannou, in recent years some parties insist on promoting an ideology of 64 genders, adding that this ideology cannot prevail over biology, logic, and the orthodox tradition of Cypriot Hellenism.

He said: “We cannot come arbitrarily and criminalize everyone, as according to the Church’s point of view, these are our regulations and anyone who wants can come to us with their own consent.”

Last week, the bill was brought before the plenary, which decided to send it back to the House legal committee for further consultation, which will take place on Wednesday afternoon, where the debate will also unveil the positions on the matter of other political parties.

Akel has already expressed its opposition to the proposed reform of the bill, while doubts have been raised about the position expected to be taken by the other parties, especially Disy.

However, in the past days, the House legal committee vice chair and Disy MP Fotini Tsiridou said that it is now widely accepted by the medical community that conversion therapies cannot exist, as “all people are born with their own identity”, adding that the notion of consent does not fit into this specific legislative proposal.

The vice president of Accept-LGBTI Cyprus Antonis Papageorgiou called conversion therapies “torture” and slammed Elam for its attempt to revisit the bill.

“The law cannot validate the existence of such ’therapies’. Moreover, exempting priests from penalties would also send a message that such practices are accepted,” he said.

“Elam claims that we are trying to criminalise prayer and confession. It’s the opposite. It is specific practices carried out by some priests that constitute torture.

The amendments proposed by Elam also prompted a response from the Cyprus Association of Psychologists and the Cyprus Family Planning Association, with the latter saying in a statement that “any discussion regarding the right to consent pseudo-conversion therapies is futile and dangerous.”

“Personal beliefs, opinions, and views of the legislative authorities cannot determine policies that involve dangerous practices that, according to scientific evidence, are associated with depression, suicide attempts, and other negative health issues affecting children, adolescents and adults alike.”