Survivors of 'conversion therapy' pave way towards ending the practice, new report finds

ILGA World has released a report on 'conversion therapy', which details how 2020 acts as a key turning point towards ending the harmful practice.

A fist raised in the air, painted in rainbow colours and a love heart on the wrist, survivors of 'conversion therapy' are creating changes towards outlawing the practice, new report finds

A groundbreaking ILGA World report details how testimonies from survivors of ‘conversion therapy’ have sparked a movement towards creating legislation which will outlaw the practice across several countries.  

‘Conversion therapy’ refers to medical experiments and psychological techniques designed to modify a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. As noted by the report, children and adolescents have been the primary victims of this ‘treatment’. In numerous countries, LGBT+ people suffer from practices such as exorcisms and/or imprisonment within mental health clinics under the “legitimising cloak of medicine,” as noted in the report. 

ILGA World released the report Curbing deception – A world survey of legal restrictions of so-called ‘conversion therapies’ on Wednesday February 26, which illustrates that 2020 could be a turning point towards ending this harmful practice. Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, author of the report, Lucas Ramon Mendos, said, “The main driving force (for reform) is survivors with their testimonies coming forward. A lot of awareness is being created through their testimony.”

Director of Programmes at ILGA World, Julia Ehrt, said, “Six court cases worldwide were litigated with positive results. State officials and governmental agencies are speaking up, together with human rights bodies. And, to date, more than 60 health professional associations in 20 countries have repudiated efforts to ‘change’ a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.”

The tireless work of survivors, activists, and grassroot organisations has stirred Government officials and health professionals into action as they speak out against the horrific practice and consider effective legislation to bring an end to it. Ehrt further states, “Legal reform is only one of the many avenues that can be explored to tackle ‘conversion therapies’: our report includes a wide array of tools that human rights defenders can use in their advocacy efforts.”

Conversion therapy has been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament and the Irish Council of Psychotherapy. A ban against both the practice and advertisement of it has not been brought into effect in Ireland despite the Bill passing through second stage of the Seanad in 2018. There are currently only three United Nation member states, Brazil, Ecuador, and Malta, which have enacted laws to restrict the practice. 

In December 2019, the Cabinet of Germany signed off on a draft bill to outlaw both the advertisement and practice. Another ten countries have introduced legislation towards restricting this practice, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. More than 60 health professional associations spread across over 20 countries have decried these techniques, as stated in the report on ‘conversion therapy’.

Co-Secretaries General of ILGA World, Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown, said, “Our lives are at stake. For centuries, we have been told we need to be mended, to be changed, to be moulded to fit a binary. From a very early age, many of us come to internalise that something about them needs to be silenced. Attempts to turn us into people we are not are still being imposed onto us in the name of religion, culture, science and even out of ill-informed good intentions. Too many lives have been ruined, or ended, and many more will be if we don’t act now. We hope that our research can raise awareness, and contribute to stop something that has harmed our communities so deeply.”

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