We outline the current state of conversion therapy in the UK and Europe. Several European countries have decided to ban these practices for all LGBTQ+ people.
EU countries ban conversion therapy
In January 2023, the openly gay Irish Minister Roderic O’Gorman announced the country’s plans to ban all practices of conversion therapy in Ireland by 2024. He described this so-called therapy as ‘cruel’ and ‘rooted in the promotion of shame’. It is simply unethical.
The World Health Organization as well as many other health experts have globally condemned the practices of conversion therapy. Ireland still has a long way to go regarding access to trans healthcare, especially for trans youth. However, this progress should be celebrated. The Irish Minister explained that he has met people who were subjected to these cruel practices. Thus, he has personally seen the ‘devastating’ impact it has had on them.
Ireland was not the only European country to progress LGBTQ+ rights in this area. After planning to pass a ban on conversion therapy in December 2022, this July Belgium’s lawmakers voted in favour of the new legislation, officially banning all practices. Their ban prevents LGBTQ+ adults from being forced to change and suppress their sexuality, gender identity and gender expression.
In May and June 2023, the governments in Iceland and Cyprus both welcomed a conversion therapy ban. All representatives in Iceland voted in favour of the bill. As of time of writing, only eight countries in Europe have banned these horrific practices. Many people still hold anti-LGBTQ+ views towards the community, for instance, believing it to be a mental illness, and therefore, using the excuse of conversion therapy as a way to seemingly ‘cure’ LGBTQ+ people for not adhering to cis-heteronormativity.
Conversion therapy in the UK
In April 2022, the UK Government decided to move forward with a ban on conversion therapy. However, this ban excluded trans and gender diverse people. It only included gay, lesbian and bisexual people in England and Wales. While some celebrated, many protested the exclusion of trans people from LGBTQ+ issues. This ban also did not cover LGBTQ+ people over the age of 18. Towards the end of 2022, the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch paused all plans to ban conversion therapy.
New ban to include trans people
However, in January 2023, the UK Government introduced a new law that would ban all forms of conversion therapy for trans people as well. The Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan stated that this bill would ‘protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender’. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the British Government has promised such a ban.
The current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is not a trans-supportive leader. He has claimed that trans women are not women and recently, a leaked video caught him mocking trans women, talking about their genitals. Given that Kemi Badenoch has also expressed transphobic views and previously halted any progress regarding a ban, it is difficult to say whether circumstances will change this time.
Moreover, Sunak received backlash from conservatives over the conversion therapy ban. Many Tory Members of Parliament had ‘serious worries’ about the UK Government’s plan including trans people. We remain hopeful, yet anxious to see whether or not the UK Government will approve this trans-inclusive ban. The bill is now waiting for the Prime Minister to sign it off which he will subsequently hand over to the Equalities Office with permission to proceed. The UK Government first promised this ban back in 2018. There has been a significant delay ever since.
Galop is an anti-abuse LGBTQ+ charity in the UK. In January 2023, they published a survey on the experiences of violence and abuse of LGBTQ+ people who had undergone conversion therapy. Galop surveyed 2,042 LGBTQ+ adults across the UK.
As part of their survey, participants discussed their experiences with conversion therapy. The key findings revealed that nearly 1 in 5 (18%) LGBTQ+ people in the UK experienced someone trying to change, cure, or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity. The number increased when it came to gender identity. 43% of trans people and 36% of non-binary people experienced someone trying to convert them.
The largest number of survivors lived in Wales (25%), whereas the rest resided all around the UK. LGBTQ+ people of colour were just as likely to undergo conversion therapy practices compared to their white counterparts. The majority (56%) of survivors reported that they were subjected to conversion practices or attempts of such by a family member.
When it came to religion, the percentage slightly increased for religious people. 22% of queer and trans people who came from religious backgrounds experienced conversion practices. However, these practices affected only 17% of non-religious LGBTQ+ people.
Galop’s findings confirm that trans and gender diverse people are far more likely to be subjected to conversion therapy practices compared to cis LGBTQ+ people. Therefore, a trans-inclusive ban would be much more beneficial for the entire LGBTQ+ community, based on gender identity as well as sexual orientation.
Commissioner for Human Rights calls for Europe-wide ban
In February 2023, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published a statement on conversion therapy. She demanded that all 46 member states of the Council of Europe ban these inhumane practices once and for all. She stated that being queer or trans is not an illness and LGBTQ+ people need no cure.
This form of so-called therapy has ‘no place in a human rights-based society’. There are several global campaigns against conversion therapy. To know more, visit our blog.
Conversion therapy is inhumane, unethical, cruel and anti-LGBTQ+. All countries in Europe as well as worldwide need to ban its practices for all members of the community. This includes trans and gender diverse people. GenderGP is in favour of an all-inclusive, global ban of conversion therapy.