Conversion therapy a form of violence against LGBTs, says pressure group

PETALING JAYA: A public policy research and advocacy organisation has rubbished a claim that conversion therapy for LGBTs is not a form of violence, saying it produces long-term psychological trauma.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy has expressed concern over a recent statement by Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, head of the International Women’s Alliance for Family and Quality Education (Wafiq), that Program Mukhayyam, a conversion therapy programme, is not a form of violence against LGBT people.

“Program Mukhayyam pathologises inherent sexual and gender diversity.

“It is a form of conversion therapy as it operates under the assumption that LGBT people are deviants that must be fixed, corrected or rehabilitated,” Galen research officer Jade See said in a paper.

See said conversion therapy had been documented and proven to produce long-term psychological trauma, worsen participants’ mental health, well-being and self-esteem, and reinforced social alienation.

“Promoters of this programme often tout the seemingly positive effects of conversion therapy among participants.

“However, these effects are mostly the result of improved community acceptance and well-being after receiving financial incentives as a result of participating in the programme,” she said.

See said conversion therapy also contributed to the stigma against LGBT people as being abnormal or immoral.

It dehumanises them and puts them at an increased risk of violence and rejection within the community, she said.

Galen project officer Dorian Wilde said in the paper the United Nations had rejected conversion therapy as being unethical, unscientific and a form of torture.

Galen said that as Program Mukhayyam was run by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), its could be interpreted as state-supported violence against LGBTs.

The paper highlighted the endorsement of conversion therapy by state and non-state actors “despite scientific consensus and demonstrated harm caused by such pseudo-science methods”.

It highlighted the challenges faced by LGBT minorities when trying to access mental health services, including lack of relevant knowledge and discriminatory attitudes among healthcare providers.

The paper also recommended measures on moving forward with LGBT-friendly mental health services, including the depathologisation of LGBT minorities, a ban on conversion therapies and incorporating human rights, including LGBT rights, into the learning curriculum of health professionals.