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Gays face purging from Panama Scouts Association

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The National Association of Scouts of Panama is expelling children, youths and adults who have  openly expressed that they are gay.

The move follows the July 17 announcement that the Boy Scouts of America  had ratified its decision to expel  all members who are openly gay.

Victor Winter, executive director of the Panama association said on Thursday, July 19  that this group does not accept "homosexual tendencies … We cannot allow people who have an opposite trend to the formation of values," he said.

He said that if a young gay man joins this group, “it goes against our principles, ethical and moral values”

The measure will not be supported by the Association of Guides and Scouts of Costa Rica which,  say media reports, is in favor of respecting the beliefs and sexual orientation of its members.

The rejection of gays in the Scouts of Panama is stipulated in the  rules of the association, ratified in March this year. Article 5 states that "members will not accept homosexual behavior or those that support it."

Winter said that prior to the expulsion of a member for this reason, the procedure indicates that they must first speak with the child's parents involved. He said the Scouts in Panama actively try  to reverse the homosexual orientation of youth.

"We have programs. We contribute our bit to try to correct the course," Winter, told  La Prensa without providing further details of program.

He said that the Scouts "help young people who as adults, are good citizens and make constructive contributions to society."

Since the Panamanian chapter of Scouts was founded in 1914 500,000 have passed through the Association.

Currently, there are  3 000  active members, 90% aged between six and 20 years.

According to Winter, among Panamanians who have served in the Scouts are the current Minister of the Presidency, Roberto Henriquez, the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, Alberto Zubieta Aleman and former mayor Bosco Vallarino.

Another former member is Ricardo Beteta, leader of the Association of Men and Women of Panama (AHMNP), who yesterday rejected the ruling of Winter.

Beteta belonged to the Scout Association from 1965 to 1973, and was also captain of a troop.

He said that , the expulsion of gay scouts highlights the stigma and discrimination that society has towards the group he represents.

"To point out homosexuality as a deviation and provide corrective treatment  is harmful and discriminatory," complained the activist.

Therapies to stop being homosexual do not work he said. "I can give faithful witness to that because for years I was a victim of conversion therapy and 40 years later I am president of a gay group."

Augustine Clement of  LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) called on the people who believe in equal human rights to not make economic contributions to the  scouts.

Clement said that every NGO has the right to establish rules as it deems necessary in its organization, but   the State must verify whether or not it infringes upon human dignity.