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Posts for May, 2012

Pan American Health Organization Calls on Governments To Impose “Adequate Sanctions” Against Ex-Gay Therapy

Jim Burroway

May 17th, 2012

The Pan American Health Organization today released position statement (PDF: 356KB/4 pages) which calls therapies to change sexual orientation “‘cures’ for an illness that does not exist,” and calls on governments to ensure that “clinics offering them should be reported and subject to adequate sanctions.” The PAHO also calls on professional associations to “call for the de-psychopathologization of sexual diversity and the prevention of interventions aimed at changing sexual orientation.”

The PAHO’s position statement lays out the problem:

In several countries of the Americas, there has been evidence of the continued promotion, through supposed “clinics” or individual “therapists,” of services aimed at “curing” non-heterosexual orientation, an approach known as “reparative” or “conversion therapy.” Worryingly, these services are often provided not just outside the sphere of public attention but in a clandestine manner. From the perspective of professional ethics and human rights protected by regional and universal treaties and conventions such as the American Convention on Human Rights and its Additional Protocol (“Protocol of San Salvador”), they represent unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to corresponding sanctions.

The position statement references the 2009 American Psychological Association review (PDF: 816KB/138 pages) of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)m which found that “enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon,” and that “there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm” from such therapies. PAHO concludes:

Health professionals who offer “reparative therapies” align themselves with social prejudices and reflect a stark ignorance in matters of sexuality and sexual health. Contrary to what many people believe or assume, there is no reason – with the exception of the stigma resulting from those very prejudices – why homosexual persons should be unable to enjoy a full and satisfying life. The task of health professionals is to not cause harm and to offer support to patients to alleviate their complaints and problems, not to make these more severe. A therapist who classifies non-heterosexual patients as “deviant” not only offends them but also contributes to the aggravation of their problems. “Reparative” or “conversion therapies” have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons. They constitute unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to adequate sanctions and penalties.