KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 — The Galen Centre called for the criminalisation of conversion therapy that it said seriously harmed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s mental health.
Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy research officer Jade See criticised the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia’s (Jakim) Mukhayyam Programme, a three-day conversion therapy camp organised eight times a year that reportedly targets Muslim trans women and gay people.
“Program Mukhayyam pathologises inherent sexual and gender diversity. It is a form of conversion therapy as it operates under the assumption that LGBT people are deviants that must be fixed, corrected or rehabilitated,” said See in a statement, who authored a paper by Galen titled “What it Means to Suffer in Silence: Challenges to Mental Health Access among LGBT People”.
“Conversion therapy has been documented and proven to produce long-term psychological trauma, worsen participants’ mental health, well-being and self-esteem, and reinforces social alienation,” she added.
In her paper, See recommended an amendment to the Mental Health Act 2001 or a new Bill to ban and criminalise conversion therapy.
“All government agencies and representatives must also cease to endorse conversion therapies,” she said.
“The MoH (Ministry of Health), in collaboration with the KPWKM (Women, Family and Community Development Ministry) and MoE (Ministry of Education) could set up a robust reporting mechanism and an independent committee so that any forms of conversion therapy could be promptly addressed.”
Galen project officer Dorian Wilde pointed out that the United Nations has recognised conversion therapy as a form of torture.
“As Program Mukhayyam is run by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), it is fair to say that this could be interpreted as state-supported violence against Malaysians who are LGBT,” he said in a statement.
See also singled out Jakim’s conversion therapy programme called Ilaj Wa Syifa that targets lesbians and gays, as well as the government department’s “Panduan Hijrah Diri” (Guide to Self-Migration) e-book that blamed masturbation for homosexual acts and recommended abstinence to “prevent” homosexuality.
The Galen Centre also demanded the repeal of all civil and syariah legislation that criminalise LGBT behaviours, including Section 377 of the Penal Code that prohibits anal and oral sex as these acts are described as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”
See further urged the Health Ministry, Education Ministry, and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to review all mental health guidelines and policies to depathologise LGBT people.
“All programmes and campaigns running on the basis that minority SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sexual characteristics) behaviours are a pathology, abnormality or social ill must be cancelled or updated to international standards (depathologised and become LGBT inclusive and affirmative),” she said.
She pointed out that many LGBT people, especially Muslims, did not seek mental health care in the public health system because they were afraid of prosecution or referral to mandatory conversion therapy.
Private mental health services, on the other hand, are too expensive, as individual psychotherapy charges are capped at RM250 per session for not less than 45 minutes of therapy under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services (Private Hospitals and other Private Healthcare Facilities) Regulations 2006.
“The core of LGBT affirming therapy lies in the notion that non-normative sexualities and genders are not mental illnesses, does not need to be changed and should instead be wholly accepted,” said See.
She cited studies that found LGBT affirmative therapies were more effective in combating minority stress, decreased internalised heterosexism, increased resilience and fostered healthy development.
“The lack of LGBT affirming mental health guidelines [in Malaysia] only serve to harm SOGIESC minorities within the mental healthcare system.”