What is LGBT + conversion therapy and why is it so controversial?
As the UK government promises to ban LGBT + conversion therapy, what is it and why is the practice so controversial?
By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, May 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The UK government on Tuesday pledged to ban LGBT + conversion therapy and to support people who have undergone the practice, joining other countries that have decided to ban treatment aimed at change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the process “can cause mental and physical damage” and should be stopped, even as some religious groups have expressed concern that a ban could criminalize the pastoral care of members of the the congregation in conflict.
Here are some key facts about the controversial practice:
What is conversion therapy?
The practice has its roots in societal attitudes towards LGBT + people.
Until 1990, homosexuality was considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a mental disorder, and same-sex relationships remain illegal in 68 countries.
Just two years ago, the WHO said being transgender was “not actually a mental health issue” in a new overhaul of its global diagnostics manual.
In the face of societal pressure, many gay or trans people have sought to become heterosexual or what is now known as cisgender – someone whose gender identity matches the sex recorded at birth.
Others are forced by family members or religious leaders to undergo conversion treatments, which can include talking therapy, hypnosis, electric shocks, and fasting.
Extreme cases, such as exorcism and “corrective rape” for lesbians, have been documented in countries like Mexico and Cameroon.
What are the laws governing practice around the world?
Four countries have implemented partial or total bans: Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Germany. Last year, the accreditation body for psychologists in Albania banned treatments aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The United States does not have a federal ban on conversion therapy, but 20 US states, including California, Colorado, New York, Washington, and Utah, ban it to some extent.
The American Medical Association condemned this practice as “harmful and ineffective”.
Nearly 700,000 Americans have undergone conversion therapy, half of them when they were under 18, according to the Williams Institute, an LGBT + think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Why is this so controversial?
LGBT + activists view conversion therapy as a form of physical or mental violence.
“All practices that seek to convert, suppress, heal or change us are dangerous, abusive and should be prohibited,” said Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Britain’s leading LGBT + rights organization Stonewall on Tuesday.
A fifth of gay, lesbian and bisexual Britons who have tried to change their sexuality have attempted suicide, according to the British charity Ozanne Foundation.
A 2019 survey by suicide prevention group The Trevor Project found that 42% of LGBT + American youth who received conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the past year.
However, some religious groups argue that the bans interfere with spiritual freedoms and could criminalize clergymen seeking to help people change their sexuality or gender identity through prayer.
On its website, the Evangelical Alliance, a conservative Christian lobby group representing 3,500 churches, said it opposes all coercive efforts regarding sexual activity.
“However, when an individual chooses to seek pastoral and prayer support, we believe the best approach is to give them whatever support they want to meet their sexual orientation and desires in any way they choose. “the group said.
What happens next?
In Britain, the government has said it will consult with the public and “key stakeholders” on the conversion therapy ban, angering LGBT + rights activists who want swift action.
“We don’t need any more delay; they consulted long enough,” Jayne Ozanne, a prominent Anglican homosexual and former member of the government’s LGBT advisory committee, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We must now act before more lives are lost.”
Around the world, several nations and regions are also considering bans.
The New Zealand government has pledged to ban the practice by February 2022, and in October of last year, the Government of Canada introduced a bill to criminalize conversion therapy.
Northern Ireland passed a motion calling for a ban last month.
FACTBOX-New Zealand and Canada ban LGBT + conversion therapy
Fifth of gay Britons trying to change their sexuality attempt suicide, survey finds
US urged to ‘extinguish hate’ after LGBT + teen suicide
(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Helen Popper. Please mention the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who are struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit http: // news .trust.org)
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.