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U.K. Pledges Conversion Therapy Ban After Survey Reveals Pervasive Anti-Gay Discrimination

The United Kingdom has vowed to ban conversion therapy after a government survey revealed sweeping discrimination against LGBTQ Britons.

In a survey of more than 108,000 queer and transgender people, two percent of respondents claimed to be survivors of the discredited “gay cure” treatment, while five percent of individuals say they have been offered conversion therapy at some point in their lives.

The report stated that orientation change efforts, also known as reparative therapy, “can range from pseudo-psychological treatments to, in extreme cases, surgical interventions and ‘corrective’ rape.”

Ruth Hunt, CEO of the U.K. advocacy group Stonewall, claimed in a statement that these findings are not surprising.

“Some people will be shocked by the findings,” Hunt claimed. “But for anyone who is LGBTQ, or has a family member or friend who is, these results will be sadly recognizable. Laws have improved and attitudes have changed but our society still treats LGBT people like second-class citizens.”

The U.K. government claimed in response that it would work to draft “legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy,” as well as introduce an action plan on LGBTQ equality.

“No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May in a press release. “This LGBTQ action plan will set out concrete steps to deliver real and lasting change across society, from health and education to tackling discrimination and addressing the burning injustices that LGBTQ people face.”

May added that she was “struck by just how many respondents said they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of a negative reaction.”

The survey also discovered that despite recent progress, LGBTQ people continue to face challenges in nearly every aspect of their lives.

Forty percent of respondents claim to have experienced harassment and abuse or been the victim of a hate crime at some point in their lives, while nine out of 10 people say they did not report these incidents to authorities. Nearly one in four individuals report experiencing bias in the workplace.

Hunt said that May’s intention to push for national legislation to address these issues is “an important first step” but must be accompanied by “tangible change.”

Just a handful of countries—including Argentina, Malta, and Taiwan—have moved to ban conversion therapy at the national level. Meanwhile, 13 states in the U.S. have passed statewide laws outlawing the practice, which has been condemned by every leading medical association as dangerous and ineffective.

“‘Reparative’ or ‘conversion therapies’ have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2010.

The U.K. announced its intention to combat school bullying and address LGBTQ mental health but did not specify its plan to eradicate conversion therapy.

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