Senator Fintan Warfield urges government to seize opportunity to ban conversion therapy

A bill to ban the practice was introduced to the Seanad in 2018 by Fintan Warfield but progress has been slow and it is stuck in the preliminary stages.

Image: Brian Teeling

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield has urged the government to act on his 2018 legislation to outlaw conversion therapy.

His comments follow a Stormont vote on Tuesday in favour of outlawing the harmful practice in the north. 

“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ should have no place in our society. It is harmful, destructive and has been condemned and discredited worldwide by institutions such as the UN Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament and by the Irish Council for Psychotherapy,” Senator Warfield said. “LGBTI+ people deserve support and affirmation, not damaging pseudo-scientific ‘therapies’.” 

Conversion therapy refers to any form of treatment proposed to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity. These therapies are unethical, harmful and based on a belief that being gay or transgender is a mental illness, and can ‘be cured’.

The Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill was put forward by Warfield to ban the practice in the Republic. However, three years on from when it was first introduced, it is still only in the preliminary stages of being approved and there are concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to it being forgotten.

While the ban on gay conversion therapy is on the Department of Children and Equality’s National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy 2019-2021, the responsibility to further it falls on the Department of Health.

Currently, Warfield is waiting on the Department of Health’s changes to the bill before it can be progressed. He said that “there has been more than enough time for the Government to act on the strong cross-party mandate given to that bill. I am once again asking the government to act on my legislation to ensure it becomes a reality and can protect LGBTI+ people from this harmful practice. The political consensus already exists, we need the Government to show the political will.”

The vote in Stormont on Tuesday was supported by every party except for the DUP and Jim Allister of TUV.  It comes on the back of increased momentum to ban the practice north and south of the border. Earlier this month the all Ireland Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition was set up to advocate for the ban. Last week, Minister Roderic O’Gorman, who is openly gay, confirmed he has tasked officials from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth with looking at ways to ban the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ in the Republic of Ireland.

For Senator Fintan Warfield it is clear that this cannot be avoided any longer. “There can be no more delays. The government must act now to support LGBTI+ people and send the clear message that their rights are not up for debate.”

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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