LGBT+ survivors of conversion therapy in Mexico push for a nationwide ban on the harmful practice

Conversion therapy is condemned by organisations like the United Nations, who have called for a global ban on the practice.

an LGBT+ person holds a felt rainbow flag in Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City, México

LGBT+ people in Mexico are battling to enact a ban on conversion therapy. Ivan Tagle, Director General of advocacy group Yaaj told Reuters that conversion therapy has become “normalised” in the country and up to six out of every 10 young people who attend the group have endured conversion therapy.

The practice is widely condemned by leading medical groups, including the World Psychiatric Association. It can range from psychological counselling to religious practices and even sexual abuse to try to ‘change’ someone from gay to straight.

Official statistics on how often conversion therapy is practiced in Mexico are not widely available but many experts say it is widespread. The United Nations has called for a global ban on the practice but few countries have followed through.

For many LGBT+ people in Mexico, their identity results in discrimination and violence. 80% of people follow the Catholic church in the conservative country with the remaining majority members of the evangelical Christian churches.

Carmen Francisco, 33, told Reuters she started going to conversion therapy 10 years ago because she felt guilty for being with another woman. “Being a Christian… I felt bad, like I was doing something wrong,” she told the news agency. But soon the sessions devolved into “exorcisms”. 

“I would ask God to change me,” Francisco recalled. “I remember sessions where I would end up kneeling on the floor crying, and I even remember times when I would end up vomiting.”

According to survivors of conversion therapy, these interventions take place on popular weekend religious retreats.

“Having three days where someone tells you that … your life identity is nothing more than a sin, a piece of shit, the scum of humanity, has very long-term implications,” said Jonathan Silva, a psychology professor at the IBERO University who treats conversion therapy survivors.

A bill to ban the practice in Mexico was approved by Senate committees earlier this year. A vote by the full chamber will take place next month.

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