A World Health Organisation (WHO) working group has called for the scrapping of so-called “homosexuality-related psychological disorders”.
While homosexuality itself is no longer recognised as a psychological disorder, a number of “disorders” deemed to be related to homosexuality have remained in WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
This includes, for example, a person’s confusion around their sexual orientation leading them to become depressed being labelled as a “sexual maturation disorder”.
The five “homosexuality-related psychological disorders” that remain listed in the current edition of the ICD could be used to justify “conversion therapy” or “treatment” of homosexuality, say critics.
The WHO group concluded in a new report that the basis for these disorders is unscientific and that they could “create unnecessary harm by delaying accurate diagnosis and treatment.”
Rather, depression and anxiety among gay and bisexual people should be treated in the same way as any other person.
The working group wrote that, “It is not justifiable from a clinical, public health or research perspective for a diagnostic classification to be based on sexual orientation.”
It added: “In addition, the Working Group found no evidence that [the categories] are clinically useful: they neither contribute to health service delivery or treatment selection nor provide essential information for public health surveillance.”
It recommended that “these categories be deleted entirely” from future editions of the ICD. According to Science, the recommendation must still undergo several reviews and would need to be voted on by ministers of health from more than 170 countries that are members of WHO.
Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland told Science that there is likely to be “tremendous pushback” against the recommendation from countries in which homosexuality is considered an illness or a crime.
He added that that this is “precisely the right time for WHO to stand up, take an evidence-based approach and say [homosexuality] is not a pathology.”
Homosexuality was removed from the current 10th edition of the ICD in 1990.