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Conversion therapy is an umbrella term for any therapeutic intervention whose goal is to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The term covers a broad range of abusive practices, including shock therapy, the use of drugs, and treatment by so-called ‘ex-gay’ therapists. Conversion therapy has been practiced in most regions of the world, but it is especially widespread in Africa and Asia. The practice represents a severe form of discrimination against same-sex attracted and gender-diverse people, as well as their families. Forcing someone to change their sexual orientation or gender identity can cause extensive emotional and mental distress and is tantamount to torture.
The IRCT is aware of the human right to self-determination and the right to be free from torture. It also understands that the practice of conversion therapy is a form of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, a form of torture, and must be stopped at once. Conversion therapy, a harmful and cruel ‘treatment’ aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, is an institutionalized form of violence against LGBTI persons. Conversion therapy targets LGBTI people for a range of often extreme, though sometimes disguised, treatments. In most places where the practice is still allowed, conversion therapists are free to abuse individuals and subject them to torturous treatment such as shock therapy, confinement, or beatings.
Conversion therapy refers to a range of dangerous and discredited practices that attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Such practices have been rejected by all the major mental health organizations. This is a harmful and discredited pseudoscientific practice aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression – with the stated ultimate goal being a heterosexual orientation. Conversion therapies include a whole spectrum of practices that aim to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. These practices appear in different forms and contexts – from ‘talk’ therapy by accredited professionals, to programs run by churches or religiously affiliated organizations.
There is an alarming trend of government officials, religious leaders, and medical practitioners who promote the practice of conversion therapy or provide futile treatment that prolongs pain and suffering. This is a violation of international law. The research evidence is clear and has been made even clearer in October 2014 with supporting evidence from the United Nations. Conversion or reparative therapy has no place in the modern world. It is unethical, ineffective, and abusive. Even if it were effective (which it isn’t) it would still be unethical for the same reasons. The practice of conversion therapy, which seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, is deeply embedded in the history of social prejudice and discrimination against gay individuals.