'Horrendous torture': Britain's LGBT+ groups, campaigners urge total ban on conversion therapies

WION Web Team
London, United KingdomUpdated: Jun 01, 2022, 04:05 PM IST

Apart from Canada, there are only a handful of countries that have banned conversion therapies, they are: Brazil, Ecuador, Germany and Malta have an outright ban on the practice Photograph:(Agencies)

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Some victims of these conversion therapies are violently beaten and even 'correctively raped' by their families just to demonstrate that this will make them straight

The UK government is being urged to ban conversion therapies that claim to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ministers have already drafted a bill that would make it illegal for conversion therapies to be administered to minors or nonconsenting adults.

People who perform conversion therapy on minors could face up to five years in jail under a government bill introduced in late October. 

However, victims and campaign groups say it doesn't go far enough.

The bill, however, does not apply to the "treatment" of adults who are deemed to have freely consented to the treatment.

Despite the draft bill's largely positive reception, this clause has been widely criticised by LGBT+ groups.

Campaigners assert that those who consent to conversion cannot be considered to have freely consented.  

According to Leni Morris with the LGBT+ anti-abuse charity Galop, such therapies take "a wide range of forms, including verbal, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse." 

The problem is, unlike "pray the gay away" camps in the United States, such events take place more often in the UK behind closed doors, such as in homes or community centres.

"The most common form of conversion therapy in the West is done in a religious setting," said Jayne Ozanne, a leading evangelical figure in the Church of England. 

She has been campaigning against the "horrendous torture" of the therapy since 2015, which she herself underwent for two decades.

People with a conflict over their sexuality usually begin by seeking help from their church and prayer groups, which put them through "healing prayer ministry". She says she talked to "special Christian counselors" who looked at her past, including her sexual experiences and her relationship with her parents. 

"It sounds quite gentle, but... actually it's anything but", she said. 

In this approach "the pressure is always on the victim", she explained, and as a result "the level of shame and self-hate is really high". 

After that did not work, she sought out a "special ministry," which claims to be able to "deliver you of... the demon of homosexuality" through exorcism. "I was hit by a Bible, you know, someone trying to hit the devil out of me a couple of times."

She emphasised that this wasn't always the worst-case scenario because some victims are "violently beaten" and even "correctively raped" by their family members "who are trying to show them that this will make you straight".

According to a 2017 survey by the UK government, five per cent of LGBT+ people have been offered conversion therapy, and two per cent have reportedly undergone it.

Morris believed that masked the full extent of the practice, with most people unaware that they have undergone it.

As she put it, the practice is "abuse" and can have long-term effects.

"Survivors have experienced serious psychological and emotional and sometimes physical trauma" that continues to affect their loving relationships and sex lives "years or even decades later", she added. 

Watch | Gravitas: Did British Officials secretly meet a Conversion Therapy group?

In 2015, the country's principal psychological and psychiatric associations outlawed such therapies due to their "unethical and potentially harmful" nature. However, these therapies continue to be practised today.

Such therapies "nearly always take place within imbalanced power dynamics: parent and child, faith leader and congregant," said Morris. 

"People who 'consent' to so-called conversion therapies are often financially and emotionally dependent on those asking them to do so. Refusal could result in social ostracisation".

Parliament is scheduled to examine the bill early next year.

(With inputs from agencies)