LGBTQ activists in Brazil are in shock after a federal judge ruled that homosexuality may be seen as a disease that can be treated.
Last week, Judge Waldemar Claudio de Carvalho effectively overturned Brazil’s Federal Council of Psychology’s 1999 ban on mental health professionals offering so called “conversion therapy”.
The council’s restriction, known as Resolution 01/99, states that “psychologists may not collaborate in events and services that propose treatments and cures for homosexuality”.
A psychologist, Rozangela Alves Justino, legally challenged the resolution, claiming that it amounted to restricting scientific freedom.
Justino, who has previously stated that homosexuality is “a disease”, had her license revoked by the council in 2016 after she was found to be offering conversion therapy in an attempt to change patients from gay to straight.
Judge de Carvalho said in his ruling that the council’s views on the matter were valid but they could not be allowed to limit psychologists’ freedom “to perform any study or care related to sexual orientation or reorientation”.
Conversion therapy is dangerous and unethical
The Federal Council of Psychology responded by affirming that conversion therapy “represents a violation of human rights and has no scientific basis”. It also noted that “homosexuality is not considered a pathology, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)”.
The council added that it will appeal the decision and will “fight in all possible instances for the maintenance of Resolution 01/99, a reason for the pride of human rights defenders in Brazil”.
Brazil’s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Alliance said in a statement that the “retrograde judicial decision not only contravenes norms of international law, but above all violates the Federal Constitution and dignity of the human person”. The group asserted that, “homosexuality has no cure, but homophobia does!”
A number of high profile pop stars also came out against the court’s decision on social media. Singer Ivete Sangalo wrote on Instagram that in this matter the sick people are those who “say that homosexuality is disease”. Fellow performer Anitta argued that the government should focus on addressing Brazil’s pressing issues instead of “wasting their time to announce that homosexuality is a sickness”.
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world – including The South African Society of Psychiatrists – have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and harmful. Religious groups have often been at the forefront of promoting the practice.