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Israel could become the sixth country in the world to ban traumatising gay conversion therapy as UK drags feet

Emma Powys Maurice June 23, 2020
Pride

Tel Aviv Pride 2019 in Israel. (Amir Levy/Getty)

Israel could become the sixth country in the world to abolish the practise of gay conversion therapy as its government considers fresh legislation.

So-called ‘conversion therapy’ refers to the dangerous and discredited pseudoscientific practise of trying to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity. It is often compared to torture and has been linked to higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction.

A new bill to ban it has been introduced by Nitzan Horowitz, leader of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, who likened it to “murder.”

“It is a murder of the soul and oftentimes the body too. These procedures result in self-harm to the point of suicide. What therapy means here is mental and physical abuse of teenagers,” he said as he put the bill forward.

He stated that it is the government’s “legal and moral duty to save the next victims”, sending a clear message to LGBT+ people that “we don’t want to change you. You are beautiful and whole just as you are.”

Horowitz’s bill would ban conversion therapy across the country and place therapists at risk for jail time, fines, and revocation of their professional license should they continue to practice it.

If successful, Israel would join just five other countries to have issued an outright ban on conversion therapy: Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan.

The harmful practice is outlawed in 20 US states – plus the territories of Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico – but not in the UK, despite the Tories having pledged to introduce legislation two years ago.

Israel conversion therapy ban will likely be resisted.

However, government sources are reporting that the ministerial committee for legislation will likely seek to delay the bill due to pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties.

Israeli news outlet Haaretz suggested that the committee will now “examine” the bill once again to make it more “moderate” so that the religious parties won’t oppose it.

It said that the only reason the bill was not immediately disqualified by the opposition was so that they can minimise backlash against two out gay ministers serving on the committee for legislation.

But the fact that the bill has got this far in the ultra-conservative coalition is itself a milestone, particularly as previous attempts at a ban have failed.

It comes after the education minister Rafi Peretz attracted fierce criticism last year for suggesting he supported conversion therapy.

Israel education minister Rafi Peretz
Israeli education minister Rafi Peretz. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty)

“I think that it is possible to convert [someone’s sexual orientation],” Peretz said. “I can tell you that I have deep familiarity on the issue of education, and I have also done this.”

He went on to discuss how he had counselled a gay friend to reconsider his sexuality.

Peretz’s remarks were condemned as “unacceptable” by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that they “do not reflect the position of the government that I head”.

He added the Israeli educational system “will continue to accept all Jewish children whoever they are and without any difference based on sexual orientation”.

More: conversion therapy, conversion therapy ban, Israel, Meretz, nitzan horowitz

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