Kuala Lumpur, 22 April 2019 – The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy today released a policy paper titled “What it Means to Suffer in Silence: Challenges to Mental Health Access among LGBT People“.
In conjunction with the paper’s release, Galen Centre’s Research Officer Jade See, expressed serious concerns over recent public statements by Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, head of the International Women’s Alliance For Family and Quality Education (Wafiq). She had alleged that Program Mukhayyam, a conversion therapy programme, is not a form of violence against LGBT 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 Jade, who is author of the paper.
“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.”
“Promoters of this programme often tout the seemingly positive effects of conversion therapy among participants. However, these effects are mostly the result of improved community acceptance and well-being after receiving financial incentives as a result of participating in the programme.”
“Conversion therapy also contributes to the stigma against LGBT people as being abnormal or immoral, dehumanises them by reducing their personhood to mere behaviour. This puts them at an increased risk of violence and rejection within the community.”
According to Project Officer Dorian Wilde, “The United Nations has in fact recognised conversion therapy as being unethical, unscientific and 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.
There are other examples such as civil and syariah laws persecuting gender and sexual minorities. Not too long ago, two women were even publicly caned for allegedly attempting to have sex.”
The paper highlights the alarming endorsement of conversion therapy by state and non-state actors, despite scientific consensus and demonstrated harm caused by such pseudo-science methods.
It also highlights the challenges faced by LGBT minorities when trying to access mental health services, including lack of relevant knowledge and discriminatory attitudes among healthcare providers.
The paper concludes with six main areas for recommendations on moving forward with LGBT-friendly mental health services, including the depathologisation of LGBT minorities, a ban on conversion therapies and incorporating human rights, including LGBT rights, into the learning curriculum of health professionals.
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The Policy Paper can be downloaded here