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UN pleads with Tory government to ban ‘chilling’ conversion therapy – with no exceptions

Patrick Kelleher April 15, 2021
Ahmed Shaheed United Nations conversion therapy

Ahmed Shaheed. (Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

The United Nations has urged the UK government to ban the pseudoscientific and discredited practice of LGBT+ conversion therapy.

In an address to MPs on Thursday (15 April), Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said conversion therapy has “haunting consequences” for LGBT+ people, according to ITV News.

In his address, Shaheed insisted that a conversion therapy ban would not violate religious freedom, as has been argued by some faith-based groups.

“International human rights law is clear that the right to freedom of religion or belief does not limit the state’s obligation to protect the life, dignity, health and equality of LGBT+ persons,” Shaheed told MPs.

He continued: “The testimonies of survivors of conversion practices are chilling. Operating on the basis that there is something ‘wrong’, ‘sinful’ or ‘pathological’ in non-heterosexual-cis forms of sexual and gender identity, LGBT+ persons are assailed with physical and emotional abuse that have haunting consequences.”

Shaheed said a conversion therapy ban could easily protect people’s religious beliefs while also restricting them from using their views to push conversion therapy practices on LGBT+ people.

He told MPs that LGBT+ people should be allowed to discuss their identity with spiritual leaders as long as they do not try to change who they are.

He insisted that any ban on “discredited, ineffective, and unsafe practices” would not be a violation of religious belief under international law.

No conversion therapy ban in sight three years after government pledge

Shaheed’s comments come almost three years after the UK government pledged to ban conversion therapy as part of its LGBT Action Plan.

Three years on, no legislation on conversion therapy has been brought forward, meaning the traumatising practice – which has been discredited by almost every major psychiatric body – is still allowed to continue.

Tensions boiled over in March after equalities minister Kemi Badenoch gave an update on progress to ban conversion therapy following a parliamentary debate.

Badenoch was roundly criticised by MPs – including fellow Tory representatives – for her “vague” speech, which failed to give any specific commitments on what legislation would look like or when it would be brought forward.

Amidst the backlash, three people resigned from the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel. In recent days, the equalities office announced that the panel has since been disbanded entirely.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson said in a letter to the Evangelical Alliance that any ban on conversion therapy will not apply to adults who seek “pastoral support” from churches while exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Johnson’s letter raised fresh concerns that the government could shy away from banning all forms of conversion therapy when legislation is brought forward in a bid to keep religious institutions happy.

More: Conservative Party, conversion therapy ban, United Nations

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