Irish Senator Ronan Mullen has said that conversion therapy should be an option to individuals unless it is proved to be harmful.
Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as “cure” therapy or reparative therapy, involves psychological or spiritual interventions aimed at changing or suppressing a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression to become more heteronormative and cisnormative. The practice stems from the belief that being LGBT+ is an illness that requires curing.
More rarely, extreme physical measures such as electric shock treatment, aversion techniques and “corrective rape” have been used in countries such as China and Ecuador.
A 2009 survey of more than 1,300 mental health professionals in the UK showed that more than 200 had offered conversion therapy to patients.
A report published by the Williams Institute found that 698,000 LGBT adults in the US have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives.
Speaking about what Mr Mullen described as the “difficult area of transgender persons’ rights and needs”, Mr Mullen said “Many parents who I know are quite concerned about what is taught now in schools in the name of equality with respect to transgender issues, and they question whether children’s best interests are being served by what is now often proposed.”
Sinn Fein Senator Fintan Warfield also spoke about the “cruelty of so-called conversion therapy”, describing it as a “vile practice” and noting that it leads to depression, anxiety, homelessness and suicide.
Conversion therapy has been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament and the Irish Council of Psychotherapy. The practice is also banned in several countries.
Recent films such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased have depicted the horrors of conversion therapy on screen. Activists around the globe are fighting to have conversion therapy outlawed.
Mr Mullen said “I don’t know enough about it at this stage but if it can be demonstrably shown that this is harmful to people then there is a case to make it unlawful. If it cannot be shown to be harmful to people, we are back into the realm of individual choice.”
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