Ending conversion therapy

Ending conversion therapy

The practice of conversion therapy has long been an issue of great controversy worldwide. In the last year, there have been various moves to tackle it. Important action has been taken in Germany, where the government has backed a law that would punish any practitioners of conversion therapy with up to a year in prison. If the law is accepted, Germany would be the second European country to make these practices illegal,[1] after Malta first imposed a ban in 2016.[2]

Conversion therapy is based on the belief that it is possible to convert individuals from being homosexual to heterosexual.[3] It sees being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender as a mental illness, which should be cured.[4] Some of the techniques used are hypnotism and electroshock treatment.[5] However, the practice has never been proven effective[6] and is even found to cause physical and mental harm.[7] Therefore, it is regarded as dangerous by health associations around the world.[8]

Moving forward
Even though many have been opposing to conversion therapy for many years, Germany is one of the first European countries attempting to ban the practice.[9] Only four other nations around the world have fully banned conversion therapies. The first country to do so was Brazil, where laws banning conversion therapy were introduced in 1999. Following this, similar bans were created in Ecuador, Malta and Taiwan. Several other countries have bans in a limited number of states or regions, such as the Australian state of Victoria and the Spanish cities of Madrid and Valencia. Similarly, several Canadian, Argentinian, and South African regions have taken legal steps to prohibit the practice.[10] In the United States, North Carolina became the first southern US state to ban public funding for the practice in August 2019. Eighteen other states have similar bans.[11] Finally, a handful of countries are currently considering legal bans, including the United Kingdom, France, and Mexico.[12] [13]

Besides countries, organisations and individuals are also becoming aware of the dangers of conversion therapy. In May 2019, Amazon stopped selling books by psychologist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, as the author promoted the idea that sexual orientation can be changed through conversion therapy.[14] Furthermore, In June 2019, McKrae Game came out as gay. He is the ex-leader of conversion therapy organisation Hope for Wholeness and spent years trying to convert homosexuals. After coming out, he apologised for these practices and admitted that people needed therapy and tried to commit suicide because of him. Game is not the first preacher to come out. Alan Chambers, leader of Exodus International, shut down this conversion therapy organisation after coming out as gay in 2013.[15]

Room for improvement
Although there have been clear steps taken by states, companies and individuals in certain countries, there is still more to be done to fully stop the practice. For example, in Switzerland, the nation’s Federal Council announced it refuses to ban conversion therapy in October 2019, even though the LGBTQ+ organisation Pink Cross Switzerland have stated that the practice is common in the country.[16] In the United States, 58 per cent of LGBTQ+ individuals live in states without protection for conversion therapy. In conservative religious communities, this practice is still being promoted and practices.[17]

In Israel, the practice has recently been the focus of political attention. Education minister Rafi Peretz stated he believes conversion therapy can work, resulting in hundreds of people calling for him to resign. Moreover, the Israeli Prime Minister responded that Peretz’s remarks are unacceptable.[18] [19] In Cyprus, people have accused clerics promoting conversion therapy, leading to suicidal thoughts among homosexual individuals.[20]

In other words, there is still room for improvement. A major first step is banning the practice in more countries. A ban sends a message that LGBTQ+ people are accepted and respected, and do not need to change. Moreover, a ban shows that those in support of conversion therapy are at fault, not those that are a victim to it. Of course, bans are not enough. The belief that sexual orientation can be changed should be countered. However, the message sent by a national ban is a strong way to change society’s perception.[21]

Anne Clerx

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[1]Germany moves to ban gay ‘conversion therapies’
[2] Conversion Therapy: Malta Bans Practice in First for Europe
[3]Israel’s Education Minister Defends ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy
[4]UK to ban gay conversion therapy: 8 countries which banned conversion
[5]Germany moves to ban gay ‘conversion therapies’
[6]Amazon Pulls Books By Catholic Writer Who Promoted Conversion Therapy
[7]Germany moves to ban gay ‘conversion therapies’
[8]Israeli education minister favors gay ‘conversion therapy’
[9]Germany moves to ban gay ‘conversion therapies’
[10]UK to ban gay conversion therapy: 8 countries which banned conversion
[11]North Carolina becomes first Southern state to ban state funding for conversion therapy
[12]Conversion therapy bans are a step forward but LGBTIQ acceptance and inclusion holds the key ǀ View
[13] France Could Be Next Country to Ban Conversion Therapy
[14]Amazon Pulls Books By Catholic Writer Who Promoted Conversion Therapy
[15]Uit de kast gekomen ‘homogenezer’ laat ‘spoor van vernielingen achter’
[16]Councillors, advocates criticise Swiss government’s refusal to ban ‘gay conversion therapy’
[17]Imagine Dragons Frontman Slams Conversion Therapy At Billboard Music Awards
[18]Israel’s Education Minister Defends ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy
[19]Israeli education minister favors gay ‘conversion therapy’
[20]Cypriot bishop faces hate speech inquiry over homophobic remarks
[21] ‘Gay cure’ conversion therapy still legal in most countries