Saturday, September 24News For London

#StopDithering: A call to the UK Government to ban Conversion Therapy

Consultation period on legalizing the ban on conversion therapy in the UK has been extended by another eight weeks.

The proposal to ban the conversion therapy was created in October, when the equalities minister requested people to submit their views on this idea within six weeks. After the threats of a legal challenge, the period was extended by another two months.

Credit: Hirna Trivedi and Neha Suryavanshi

What is conversion therapy?

Credit: Mermaid UK

According to NHS, conversion therapy, which can also be called ‘reparative therapy’ or ‘gay cure therapy’, is an act of trying to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. NHS and other organizations have called this kind of practices ‘unethical and potentially harmful.’ It can include prayers, talking therapies, physical violence, corrective rape and can leave victims of it emotionally and physically traumatized. 

How common is it in the UK? 

According to Stonewall, a human rights charity, one in twenty LGBTQ people (five per cent) have been pushed to receive such services to change their sexual orientation. They also add: “This number rises to nine per cent of LGBT people aged 18-24, nine per cent of Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people- and eight per cent of LGBT disabled people.” 

Furthermore, Stonewall has confirmed that 51% of people who were offered conversion therapy said religious or faith groups had conducted it. These groups believe that LGBTQ people are possessed by the ‘demonic’ spirit of homosexuality. 

Credit: Stonewall

As stated in the 2020 ‘Conversion Therapy’ and Gender Identity Survey, “some respondents reported experiencing severe physical and sexual violence during, including verbal abuse, isolation, beatings, forced feeding or food deprivation, corrective rape and forced nudity”. Gender diverse people have also reported mental health issues and an increase in suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Credit: Stonewall

What has the government said about the issue? 

Mike Freer, the Minister of the Government Equalities Department has mentioned that conversion therapy can include “abhorrent practices”: “It can cause lasting harm to people, it can be a violent act upon a person. It is important that we stop it.”

With the current proposal, the government is trying to add to the existing regulatory framework without preventing individuals from seeking support from therapists and questioning their sexual orientation and identity. The person looking for help should be receiving all the information about the possible consequences of conversion therapy and it must be fully consensual. 

Credit: Ekjot Oberoi

In 2018, the government has launched an LGBT equality plan and promised to end conversion therapy. Last year, Prime minister Boris Johnson also confirmed that they will provide further financial support to the victims of conversion therapy. 

What does the public think? 

According to the 2020 ‘Conversion Therapy’ and Gender Identity Survey, 89% of all responses confirmed that conversion therapy must be banned fully in the UK. 

Religious organisations argue that such a ban can influence their religious freedoms and criminalise a supportive prayer for a person who wants to resist a same-sex attraction. The Church of England, however, confirmed that conversion therapy has “no place in the modern world”.

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns who has supported the ban confirmed that safeguarding measures will be put in place to make sure that therapists, who help teens understand gender identity, are protected. 

According to the poll, which our group posted on Twitter, out of 40 respondents 90.7% believe that conversion therapy must be banned in the UK, while only 9.3% think it should stay legal.  

Credit: Twitter

What do the victims have to say?

Here are accounts from survivors of conversion therapy who share the lasting damage this practice has had on them.

“I began to believe I was unlovable.” 

Liam, a trans man in his 30s, said that the most damaging effect of undergoing conversion therapy was that he felt he was not worthy of being loved. When someone is being constantly told that even God doesn’t love who he is, it becomes difficult to believe that one can be loved, says Liam. 

“I was taken to a dark room, strapped to a wooden chair, and given electric shocks.” 

Carolyn, a trans woman in her 70s, recalls the horrors that she faced when she went for conversion therapy as a child because she enjoyed “blokey” activities. She was conditioned to associate her gender dysphoria with physical pain. 

What is the Global approach and possible solutions?

In most countries, there is a full or partial ban on conversion therapy applying both to sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts. Legal and regulatory interventions have been introduced across the globe to restrict conversion therapy. 

One of the most comprehensive laws on conversion therapy is in Madrid which has successfully banned this practice. Despite legal challenges, around 20 states of the US have a ban on conversion therapy. Countries like Canada, Malta, Germany, and Mexico have also taken the initiative to stop such methods.

In the UK there are several organizations that work towards helping victims of this therapy.

  1. Galop’s National Conversion Therapy Helpline is run by experienced LGBT+ staff and is open to all members of the community who are victims or at risk of such practices.

            Contact no.: 0800 130 3335

            Email: CThelp@galop.org.uk

2. Gires is a UK-wide organization that provides support to all trans and gay people and people who are non-binary or non-gender.

            Contact no.: 020 3051 3696

            Email: web@gires.org.uk