You have probably seen a lot in the news about Northern Ireland and conversion therapy, and this is because Northern Ireland may be becoming the first place in the UK to ban LGBTQ+ conversion therapy in all its forms.
Here is everything you need to know about what’s happening, including what conversion therapy actually is.
What is conversion therapy?
Conversion therapy is a pseudoscientific practice that tries to change the sexual orientation of a person so that they are heterosexual. Usually, the therapy includes different elements, such as through physical, phycological and spiritual interventions. However, there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be changed, and the therapy can also be harmful to the individual undergoing it.
Is it legal?
At the moment, conversion therapy is still legal in the UK; however, in 2018 Theresa May vowed that conversion therapy would be banned. Government research also found that 75 of the LGBTQ+ community have been offered conversion therapy, and whilst we expect to see the law change in the future, currently it is still legal.
A health report conducted by Stonewall found that one in twenty LGBT people in the UK have been pressured into services that question or change their sexual orientation, this equivalent to 5%. However, the study also found that 9% of all LGBT people aged 18-24 had been offered conversion therapy, as well as 9% of Black, Asian or ethnic minority LGBT people and 8% of disabled LGBT people.
Where is it happening?
Conversion therapy is happening all over the world; however, many countries are slowly starting to change the law to stop conversion therapy.
In May 2020, Germany became the fifth country to ban conversion therapy for minors. Other countries include Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan. There are also 20 states in the USA that have banned conversion therapy, as well as several cities.
What is happening in Northern Ireland?
In April 2021, Politicians in Northern Ireland have passed a motion calling for a ban on all forms of gay conversion therapy, and the motion passed by 59 votes to 24. The motion was proposed by Doug Beattie and John Stewart, who are Ulster Unionist assembly members (MLA’s).
The DUP proposed an amendment stating that legitimate religious activities do not constitute as conversion therapy, but this amendment was rejected by the MLA’s.
Ms Cameron of the DUP introduced the amendment, and told the BBC that the party was “firmly opposed” to conversion therapy, and that they are “concerned at the absence of any clear or evidence-based definition of conversion therapy contained anywhere within the motion. There is a risk that such ambiguity, if translated into legislation, would criminalise legitimate activities or conversations.”
The motion is non-binding, but officials have started working on a draft bill, so we expect to see conversion therapy banned in Northern Ireland sooner rather than later.