Cyprus Mail

Amendment to conversion therapies bill sees Church onboard (updated)

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The church has agreed with the bill banning conversion therapies after changes were inserted, chairman of the House legal committee Nikos Tornaritis said on Wednesday.

The ongoing debate on the law proposal aiming to put an end to the pseudo-treatments is drawing to a close with most parties now having reached agreement in the wording.

MPs are expected to vote on the bill on Thursday. This will include a newly introduced amendment with explicit reference to Article 18 of the constitution and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The same articles were cited by Holy Synod in its appeal to MPs to not pass the law proposal.

This change aims “to send a message at all levels that parliament is legislating on the basis of the country’s Constitution and European principles and values, what exactly Europe says in relation to human rights and how we ought to defend and protect them,” the Disy MP said.

According to the amendment, priests will still be allowed to continue running confessions, and giving advice to homosexuals.

But this is redundant, Akel MP Andreas Pashiourtides said, since the constitution and the European convention take precedence over any legislation.

He clarified that the move aims to criminalise exorcisms, rapes and any other attempts, techniques, practices or services aiming to change people’s sexual orientation.

Advice and the application of recognised medical and special practices are explicitly excluded from the legislation.

Before the House session on Wednesday, Accept LGBTI slammed the church for defending conversion therapies and called it to repent for torturing LGBTQ+ individuals.

According to Accept LGBTI, the church has been involved in conversion therapies by referring people for hormone treatments, arranging heterosexual marriages for them, appointing them as priests and cultivating self-hatred in LGBTI people.

The position of the church is that it loves the homosexual but hates homosexuality, which is contradictory in itself, Tryfon told Sigma TV.

“In essence it comes to impose what it has imposed for so many years… it continues to hide behind this tradition that has destroyed lives,” the NGO president said.

“Sexual orientation does not change,” the LGBTI activist noted, referring to the parents who believe they can ‘straighten out’ their children.

The Holy Synod, which Tryfon said should have put an end to this ‘tradition’ a long time ago, issued a statement on Tuesday saying the amendment annihilates the right to religious expression.

In its statement, the highest authority of the church said that gender is determined by the body’s physiology and is a gift by God.

Far-right party Elam, which wants to exclude priests from the bill and adjust it to allow the pseudo-treatments upon the individual’s consent, applauded Holy Synod’s statement.

But Accept LGBTI said the church failed to mention all the torture it caused LGBTQ+ individuals and urging it to repent.

“Behind all the hate crimes, homophobic laws and homophobic hatred that prevail worldwide, [the church’s] moral teachings have, over the centuries, played a part,” Accept LGBTI said.

The church “is the perpetrator of thousands of murders and torture of LGBTI people” and excuses hate crimes as acts “fighting the devil”, the organisation added.

It then called on the church “to do some self-criticism and reflect on all the harm it has caused to LGBTQ persons. Let it repent for all the blood spilled because of some of its moral teachings,” Accept added.

The annual Cyprus pride march will be held this Saturday in Nicosia.

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