The persistent portrayal of homosexuality as a disease has been condemned by the World Medical Association along with attempts to treat it using so-called “conversion” or “reparative” procedures.
At its annual Assembly in Fortaleza, Brazil, the WMA issued a strong statement condemning all forms of stigmatisation, criminalisation and discrimination of people based on their sexual orientation. It said that homosexuality does not represent a disease, but rather a natural variation within the range of human sexuality. Delegates condemned so-called “conversion” or “reparative” methods as ‘violations of human rights’ that were unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to sanctions and penalties. It was unethical for physicians to participate during any step of such procedures.
The statement said that physicians should provide therapy in accordance with internationally recognised treatments and protocols. Psychiatric or psychotherapeutic approaches to treatment must not focus upon homosexuality itself, but rather on the conflicts which arise between homosexuality, and religious, social and internalised norms and prejudices.
WMA President, Dr. Margaret Mungherera, said: ‘Healthcare professionals encounter many aspects of human diversity when providing care, including different variations of human sexuality. Homosexuality itself is not a disease. It is the stigmatisation and discrimination experienced by people with a bisexual or homosexual orientation, which can be harmful to health. So-called “conversion” or “reparative” therapies exacerbate these negative health effects and represent unethical practice.
‘Therapies which claim to be able to convert homosexuality into asexual or heterosexual behaviour have no medical indication, involve questionable methods, and must be denounced as unethical.’
She added that discrimination, stigmatisation, peer rejection and bullying continued to have a serious impact on the psychological and physical health of people with a homosexual or bisexual orientation. These negative experiences led to higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, substance misuse, and suicide attempts. Consequently the suicide rate among young people with a homosexual or bisexual orientation was three times higher than that of their peers.