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Conversion Therapy Is Cruel and It Needs to End

Despite the adverse psychological impact of conversion therapy, this pseudo-scientific practice continues to be practiced widely.

Image Courtesy: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

The French parliament on Tuesday voted to ban the cruel and degrading practice of LGBTQI+ conversion therapy. This pseudo-scientific practice continues to be practiced widely with only 13 countries legislating some form of national ban.

Conversion therapy is "any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression". The practice is rooted in the assumption that any deviation from the heteronormative ideal is “abnormal” and that LGBTQ+ individuals need to be “cured” in order to make them “healthy”. The methods used for this kind of “therapy” are cruel—from electric shocks and exorcisms to “corrective” rapes and death threats. Attempts to force conversion therapy are often disguised under the pretense of treating actual conditions, such as sexual addiction or under claims to help people who struggle with “unwanted same-sex attractions” or “gender confusion”.

This pathologising of LGBTQ+ individuals has a huge impact on their physical and mental well-being. Studies show 98% of individuals who have undergone conversion therapy experience serious psychological damage, including suicidal thoughts, self-harm, anxiety, and depression. Minors are disproportionately forced to undergo conversion therapy as their  adult caretakers wield the legal authority to take medical decisions on their behalf. In cases where young people have the right to refuse treatment, they are especially prone to coercion by family members and their local communities. Conversion therapy continues to be a lucrative business model, with easily available practitioners and high costs of treatment.

In India, despite the Indian Psychiatric Society’s 2018 statement affirming that “homosexuality is not a disease and must not be regarded as such”, conversion therapy is still prevalent, with traditional, heteropatriarchal family structures maintained as the only acceptable ones.

Conversion therapy is abuse. It’s a violation of fundamental human rights. While steps have been taken in the last twenty years by LGBTQ+ activists towards eradicating it many countries and communities around the continue to perpetrate harm against LGBTQ+ people with this inhumane practice. Under the new French legislation, people offering LGBT+ conversion therapy could be jailed for up to two years and fined 30,000 euros ($33,810), with even tougher sentences if under-18s or vulnerable adults were involved. The bill, which must be signed by French President Emmanuel Macron before becoming law, was passed days after a similar ban was signed into law in Canada. The law is likely to be implemented by February 2022.