Venezuelan psychologists lead fight to end LGBTI+ ‘conversion therapies’

By Hector Pereira

Caracas, Sep 14 (EFE).- “Homosexuality cannot be ‘cured.'”

That emphatic and direct message from the Federation of Venezuelan Psychologists (FPV) has been resonating in Venezuela in recent days and given fresh impetus to the fight there against so-called “conversion therapies” for LGBTI+ individuals.

In an unprecedented pronouncement on Sept. 6, that organization made clear its rejection of those inappropriately named procedures, saying they constitute a clear violation of human rights and merely cause “additional physical and emotional suffering.”

Its statement has been hailed by organizations and activists who advocate on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, a collective that suffers various forms of discrimination in the South American nation.

According to the FPV, one-fourth of all people who seek psychological counseling in Venezuela are openly LGBTI.

Since many of those individuals are dealing with problems of self-acceptance and rejection from the people around them, therapies should serve as safe spaces in which patients can make strides toward greater self-determination, the federation says.

Sexual orientation “is not an illness, and so it can’t be treated as an illness,” FPV President Clara Astorga said in an interview with Efe.

Members of the LGBTI community, like all people in Venezuela, have the right to self-determination, she said, adding that it is therefore incumbent on the population at large – and particularly authorities and professionals in the physical and mental health fields – to ensure that right is respected.

But instead, Astorga said, the continued presence in the market of pseudo-psychologists who pretend to “cure” natural phenomena like homosexuality or transgenderism poses a threat to these people and makes them vulnerable to “treatments” that, according to the United Nations, are tantamount to torture.

The FPV spoke out at this time due to recent anti-LGBTI+ remarks by politicians on television and complaints the federation has received about fraudulent therapists performing these procedures.

Astorga clarified that her office has not received any denunciations about licensed psychologists but only people practicing that profession illegally, some of whom have been arrested in recent months thanks to cooperation between the federation and authorities.

For his part, the director of the Pais Plural organization, which promotes the rights of the LGBTI+ collective and works on several fronts to reduce discrimination, said it is important to have the FPV on board as an ally.

“There are LGBTIQ+ people who, because of these conversion therapies, because of discrimination, suffer mental health disorders such as stress, anxiety, depression and even suicidal ideation,” Daniel Picado said.

He added that members of the LGBTI+ community face “structural discrimination” in Venezuela and are “misunderstood in all spaces” of society, while at same time being “made invisible and left unprotected.”

Referring to so-called “conversion therapies,” Picado recalled that torture is a crime that is not subject to the statute of limitations.

In that regard, he said human rights organizations and the FPV have the duty to receive the complaints of all who have been subjected to those procedures – some of which include the use of electric shocks to inhibit natural instincts – and help ensure that justice is served.

Picado added that the psychologists’ statement also should trigger a response from the government, which must recognize the existence of that pseudo-scientific practice and the need to take action to stamp it out. EFE


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