GHN calls for Irish government to urgently ban conversion therapy

The harmful practice of conversion therapy is still legal in Ireland and GHN is calling on the government to take urgent action.

Conversion therapy camp with a cross over the doorway
Image: YouTube @VICE

The GHN (Gay Health Network) has released a statement calling for the Irish Government to urgently enact legislation to ban conversion therapy.

“We are gravely concerned at the stalling of progress on this matter, and at the continued delay by Government on the enactment of the legislation, on the basis that research is needed,” read the statement, released today, December 13.

“There remains no clear deadline for the completion of such research. In the meantime, Conversion Therapy practices continue to cause damage to individuals.”

GHN is an expert network, made up of both individuals and organisations, working at the frontline of HIV and STI service agencies for gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men (GBMSM). Member groups include BeLonG To, LGBT Ireland and HIV Ireland, among other LGBTQ+ organisations and communities, all of which are calling for the Irish government to make moves to outlaw conversion therapy.

“We believe that secular mental health professionals who are treating clients in this way may be operating outside of their professional guidelines,” said Bill Foley, GHN Secretary, at the Network’s AGM.

“Religious organisations offering to ‘pray away’ a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity towards more heteronormative behaviours are operating outside the professional sphere completely.”

Conversion therapy seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual (or other) to heterosexual or their gender identity from transgender or non-binary to cisgender.

To achieve this end, psychological, physical or spiritual interventions are used which numerous studies show often cause long-term trauma and psychological harm to the LGBTQ+ individual undergoing this ‘therapy’.

These practices come in many forms, some subtle, some overt, but all harmful.  Stever Jacques, NXF board member, has personal experience of conversion therapy and has shared his experience.

“I have experienced efforts to change my sexual orientation from exorcism experiences to group and individual therapy, 12-step programmes to residential retreats! The experiences were harmful and can have serious negative consequences on one’s mental health and self-esteem,” said Jacques.

“Conversion therapy is rooted in belief systems that say that LGBT+ people are disorientated or sick and therefore need curing. It should be banned because it is abusive and serves no positive purpose.”

GHN is urging the government to prioritise the issue of conversion therapy in Ireland and “enact legislation without further delay as demanded by all member organisations”.

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