‘Health Min. complaints committee on conversion therapy is dysfunctional’

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June 14, 2017 04:47
2 minute read.
Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade

Participants during Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The Health Ministry’s committee that deals with complaints against psychologists – including those who use “conversion treatments” or “conversion therapy” for homosexuality – has not met since December even though it is supposed to convene monthly.

This was revealed on Tuesday at the request of MKs Yael German and Ilan Gilon at a session of the Knesset State Control Committee.

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MK Eyal Ben-Reuven chaired the meeting and said at its start: “I want to hear what the ministry’s policy is on ‘conversion’ treatments. Previously, it issued a warning against these treatments and adopted the position of the psychologists who oppose trying to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals.

“This is also customary in other Western countries, where these treatments are considered to be unethical and possibly causing emotional damage.

“I want to hear whether there is a connection between the lack of functioning of the complaints committee and the policy.”

German stated that none of the 20 complaints on the matter – one of which was filed more than a year ago – was dealt with by the committee.

“I wonder if this is a deliberate ministry policy, not to handle complaints of this kind. Abroad, it was determined that conversion treatments cause damage, leading to anxiety and self-destruction.

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The Psychologists Council has said that the treatment does not necessarily help and that it causes harm, especially in teenagers,” the former health minister said.

MK Gilon said he heard that there are some 30 psychologists who left the US and came to Israel to administer conversion therapy. The issue, he continued, “is legal and not medical.”

Health Ministry official Meital Gabai, who is a member of the three-member complaints’ committee, said, “There was a period when the committee did not exist, from the end of 2015 to the middle of 2016. In May 2016, the committee was appointed as a voluntary body, on which there are two psychologists who do this without pay.”

There are cases that were begun by the previous committee and have not yet been closed by the current committee.

More files were created during the period when there was no committee.”

Zeev Goren, a former yeshiva student who was forced into conversion therapy, said he was “smart enough to understand that I did not want to sit in the yeshiva that gave two options: either to undergo conversion treatment or be kicked out of the school.

“The aim is to make a person hate himself, and a person cannot live if he hates himself.”

MK Ben-Reuven concluded that the status quo on the issue cannot continue.

"The Health Ministry has failed by having a dysfunctional committee. We will make sure that the health minister recognizes the problem.”

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