LGBTI rights groups in Israel have announced they are planning protests over pro-conversion therapy comments made by the education minister.
The groups have said that they are planning protests to take place on Sunday (14 July).
Education Minister and Orthodox Rabbi Rafi Peretz has faced widespread condemnation after saying he believed conversion therapy could be effective. He also said that he had used conversion therapy.
‘I think it’s possible,’ Peretz told Israeli TV station, Channel 12, adding that he had a ‘very deep familiarity with the issue’.
Conversion therapy attempts to change people’s sexual orientation through psychological, spiritual, and sometimes physical means. The method is highly controversial and has been banned in many countries, with its critics claiming it is akin to brainwashing.
‘I think that it is possible to convert [a person’s sexual orientation]’
Peretz made the comments on Saturday (13 July), BBC News reports.
‘I think that it is possible to convert [a person’s sexual orientation],’ he said. I can tell you that I have deep familiarity on the issue of education, and I have also done this.’
He described how he had acted when a gay person told him about his sexual inclinations.
‘First of all, I embraced him. I said very warm things to him. I told him, “Let’s think. Let’s study. And let’s contemplate.”
‘The objective is first of all for him to know himself well… and then he will decide,’ Mr Peretz added.
He has since been widely condemned by numerous politicians in Israel. This includes prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described the education minister’s remarks as unacceptable’.
Peretz later attempted to clarify his comments, claiming that he did not suggest children should go through conversion therapy.
‘Conversion therapy is a hate crime’
LGBTI rights activists announced that the protests would take place from around 7pm on Sunday, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Ohad Chizki, Director of The Aguda – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, called for action from the country’s senior politicians over the Peretz’ comments.
‘The statements of condemnation from Netanyahu and [ruling party] Likud ministers or the clarification that Minister Peretz published don’t change for a moment the fact that the minister of education of the State of Israel expressed support this evening for conversion therapy and even admitted that he himself administered this as an educator,’ Chizki said.
‘Conversion therapy is a hate crime. It is on the prime minister to fire Minister Peretz immediately. Every other stance is, in our eyes, supporting him and his statements.’
Israel is widely considered to be the most LGBTI-friendly country in the Middle East.
However, Israel still struggles with widespread homophobia, particularly among hardline religious groups.