Conversion therapy is a religious and spiritual practice that aims to change sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been condemned by medical experts as ineffective, harmful and unethical.
Many people have advocated for the prohibition of conversion therapy (photo courtesy of May James/Getty).
This week, Netflix released a new documentary from producer Ryan Murphy that examines the controversial practice of conversion therapy.
The video follows survivors and former leaders of the so-called “pray the gay away” movement as they come to grips with their experiences and the terrible impact conversion therapy has had on many people.
Conversion therapy is being phased out in several nations across the globe, but what precisely is it and is it legal in the UK?
Everything you need to know about conversion therapy is right here.
What is conversion therapy and how does it work?
Conversion therapy refers to any kind of treatment or psychotherapy that attempts to compel a person to alter or conceal their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, according to Stonewall, a charity that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community’s equality.
It is frequently championed by radical religious organizations that regard homosexuality as a sin, and it is based on the idea that being gay or bisexual is a problem that needs to be cured.
As Jayne Ozanne, a former government equality advisor who was exposed to conversion therapy, told ITV News, the techniques of conversion therapy – sometimes known as ‘cure’ or reparative therapy – may include counseling and prayer.
Ozanne also mentioned the more severe techniques that may be employed in conversion therapy when she described her personal experiences with it.
‘I went to specialized ministries,’ she said, referring to deliverance ministries and exorcisms.
‘The majority, but not all, will be done by individuals who love you and want the best for you, but they believe they are dealing with the devil inside you. It’s a horrible mental state to be in.’
Conversion therapy has been identified as a dangerous and immoral technique connected to child abuse, with some parents forcing their children to attend conversion camps and holding them there against their will – sometimes in solitary confinement.
Is conversion therapy permitted in the United Kingdom?
On the first-ever Reclaim Pride march in July, tens of thousands of LGBTI+ protestors marched across Trafalgar Square (photo: Mark Kerrison/Getty).
All main counselling and psychotherapy organizations in the United Kingdom, including the NHS, have decided that conversion therapy is harmful and have signed a Memorandum of Understanding condemning it (PDF).
As part of its LGBT equality agenda, Theresa May’s administration pledged to ban conversion therapy in 2018.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated last summer that preparations for a ban will be pushed forward – but three advisors left the government’s LGBT advisory group in March, citing concerns with the pace with which the ban seemed to be going forward.
However, in May 2021, the government stated that a consultation on the ban would be conducted in England and Wales, with Boris Johnson reportedly making the proposal a “personal priority.”
While no date has been set, the consultation will work to ensure that the ban can be implemented without unintended effects and that medical experts, religious leaders, teachers, and parents may continue to have open and honest discussions.
Following the Queen’s address, Stonewall’s CEO Nancy Kelley expressed her gratitude for the commitment to the ban, but expressed her continuing dissatisfaction with how the prohibition is being implemented.
‘The announcement of a consultation is alarming and will be difficult for our communities to hear,’ she told Metro.co.uk. We don’t need a consultation to understand that any methods aimed at converting, suppressing, curing, or changing us are harmful and must be prohibited.
‘The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and ace communities have been waiting nearly three years for the UK government to follow through on its commitment to outlaw all conversion techniques, and any delay puts us at danger of additional abuse.’
Has conversion therapy been outlawed in other countries?
Many nations, including Canada, Malta, Germany, Mexico, and parts of Australia, have enacted complete or partial bans.
Conversion therapy is illegal in Germany for minors under the age of 18, and it is illegal for adults in instances of force or deception.
Several states in the United States have outlawed the practice, but many of them exempt religious counselors and organizations.
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