Health Ministry: Gay conversion therapy 'inappropriate'
Minister Yael German adopts Israel Psychological Association's position paper against treatments aimed at changing religious gays' sexual orientation, says 'sexual inclination is part of a person's identity and requires no treatment or conversion.'
The Ministry's ruling is based on a position paper issued by the Israel Psychological Association about three years ago. Conversion therapy is a range of treatments performed on homosexuals in the religious sector in a bid to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual, and is not only accepted on the margins of the religious society. Because the treatments are based on psychological approaches, the psychologists decided to look into the issue and declare it improper.
In its conclusions, the Israel Psychological Association determined that the essence of psychotherapy is to help the patient search for his or her identity and make conscious choices, while conversion therapy basically dictates the required outcome in advance and therefore violates psychologists' rules of ethics.
"It is professionally wrong for the therapist's opinions, values and inclinations to affect his or her attitude towards the patient, and definitely not the direction of the treatment. If the therapist is unable to accept the patient based on a non-judgmental, accepting and empathic position, he or she must disqualify themselves form treating that patient," the position paper read.
The document added that the therapist must avoid serving as a messenger of any religious group seeking to prevent a person from living a life matching his or her identity. Even when the patient initiates the conversion therapy, and the therapist is convinced that it is not a case of improper external pressure, he or she must make it clear to the patient that the chances of success are very slim.
The position paper was recently adopted by the Israel Council of Psychologists, which wrote to Health Minister Yael German that "there is no research evidence that a certain conversion method has succeeded, and there is even some evidence about possible damage.
German decided to adopt the position as well, stating that "this serves as further proof that sexual inclination is not something which must or should be changed. Sexual inclination is part of a person's identity and requires no treatment or conversion."
The Havruta organization for religious homosexuals in Israel welcomed the Health Ministry's decision to adopt the position paper against conversion therapy, but stated that "such 'treatments' should be outlawed, as they have been in the United States.
"Havruta has voiced its opinion about what is known as 'conversion therapy' many times and in different ways, and today it turns out that it is no longer alone in this battle and that our position is receiving clear and unequivocal support from the Council of Psychologists and the Health Ministry."
The organization added in a statement that it believes there is nothing wrong with religious homosexuals. "We were created in the image of God like any other person and our inclination is not something which is against Jewish Law, but is something the religious society has yet to understand how to deal with.
"Moreover, suppressing our sexual inclination has created sad and sick families, depressed women and men walking around with a feeling that they have sinned. It is important for us at Havruta to raise awareness to the issue and present an unequivocal fact: We are here, we wear a skullcap, and we are being joined by an increasing number of gay people from a religious home."
Shai Doitsh, chairman of the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, said in response: "The Health Ministry's warning follows a lot of research and evidence about serious mental damage suffered by members of the LGBT community who have undergone 'conversion' attempts, and even suicide.
"Instead of letting conscienceless charlatans pretend to change a person's sexual inclination, we should all focus on encouraging LGBT acceptance and equality.
"We would like to thank Health Ministry Yael German for this move and we hope that this warning, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks about LGBT equality at the UN, will lead to legislation which will completely rule out the discrimination against the gay community in the fields of marriage and family, and in general."