Government’s stance on changing one’s sexual orientation through ‘conversion therapy’

Anthea Indira Ong
3 min readMay 4, 2020

Parliamentary Question, 4 May 2020

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Health with regard to the practice of changing one’s sexual orientation through psychological and spiritual means, also known as “conversion therapy”, whether the Ministry will consider (i) stating an official position against conversion therapy, as it is not approved by expert bodies in psychology including the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) (ii) disseminating guidelines against conversion therapy to mental healthcare professionals (iii) establishing complaint mechanisms for clients who have experienced conversion therapy and (iv) pursuing disciplinary action for mental healthcare professionals who practise or refer patients to conversion therapy.

Mr Gan Kim Yong: The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision (ICD-10), which is the current standardised medical classification list by the World Health Organisation (WHO), states that sexual orientation alone is not to be regarded as a clinical disorder that needs to be cured. Homosexuality has not been considered a psychiatric diagnosis since 1973 (by the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and 1977 (by the WHO International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems).

MOH expects doctors and other healthcare professionals to practice according to evidence-based best practice and clinical ethics, and to consider and respect patients’ preferences and circumstances (including sexual orientation) when providing care. For individuals who seek care with a desire to change one’s sexual orientation through clinical means, healthcare professionals should care for and support these individuals with empathy and sensitivity.

Mechanisms for the public to feedback on care provided already exist at public healthcare institutions and members of the public can submit a formal complaint to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) if a doctor is acting unethically or providing inappropriate treatment.

The SMC takes complaints against doctors seriously and will investigate and impose disciplinary action if the doctor was found guilty of misconduct.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

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