Hotline launched for complaints about ‘conversion therapy’

Help center goes online on International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia; discredited practice remains legal in Israel but is discouraged by Health Ministry

People participate in the annual Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 14, 2019. (Flash90)
People participate in the annual Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 14, 2019. (Flash90)

The Israeli Medical Association and the Tel Aviv municipality announced Sunday the creation of a new hotline for reports and complaints of so-called conversion therapy.

Gay conversion therapies, also called reparative therapies, have been strongly discouraged in Israel, the US and elsewhere, with major health organizations criticizing what they term pseudo-scientific methods and the treatment of homosexuality as a mental illness.

Though discouraged by the Health Ministry, the practice remains legal in Israel, and is still accepted in some conservative and Orthodox circles.

Callers to the hotline will be directed to welfare services and the police if necessary and will receive help in dealing with the authorities if they wish.

Etai Pinkas-Arad (Screen grab via YouTube taken on June 8, 2019)

Etai Pinkas-Arad, who holds the LGBT portfolio on the Tel Aviv city council, said that the treatments were dangerous and abusive, and should be reported even if they are not yet defined a criminal offense: “Report and we will deal with it.”

The hotline can be reached at 03-7244660, and is available from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., Sunday to Thursday.

The International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia is observed on May 17 to commemorate the UN World Health Organization’s decision to remove homosexuality from the international list of diseases on that date in 1990. The founders urge countries around to world to take actions to raise awareness of LGBT rights and violations.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz attends a meeting of the Jewish Home party in Tel Aviv, January 13, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The issue of conversion therapy made headlines in Israel last year after Education Minister Rafi Peretz said in an interview that he backed the practice and had personal experience with it, before reversing himself amid criticism from across the political spectrum.

AP contributed to this report.

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