In a historic moment for global LGBTQIA+ rights, the United Nations has issued a report calling for an end to the dangerous and medically-discredited practice of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy practices, the UN states, are “interventions of a wide ranging nature” that are “aimed at effecting a change from nonheterosexual to heterosexual and from trans or gender diverse to cisgender.” These practices, which typically involve horrific physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, are banned in some countries and US states, but are still far too common around the world.
The UN cited a global study that found 9 in 10 conversion therapy survivors from 100 countries report suffering serious trauma. Countless survivors of conversion therapy report being beaten, injected with paralytic or nausea-inducing drugs, subjected to electric shock, having their lives threatened, or being raped as part of these inhumane “treatments.”
Minors are commonly the victims of this harmful practice, as they typically lack the legal rights to control their health care and, as the report says, “as a result of the desire of parents or guardians to have them conform to expectations, either their or their communities, regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.
The report cites a 2019 study from The Fenway Institute about the serious harm conversion therapy poses for minors. That study found that “children and young people are particularly vulnerable to the impact of practices of ‘conversion therapy.’ A recent study of transgender adults found that, exposure before 10 years of age “was significantly associated with increased odds of severe psychological distress … and lifetime suicide attempts.”
“We commend the United Nations General Assembly for releasing this report calling for a ban on sexual orientation and gender identity conversion efforts across the globe,” said Alex Keuroghlian, MD, MPH, Director of Education and Training Programs at The Fenway Institute. “The Fenway Institute is honored that our 2019 study showing an association between exposure to gender identity conversion efforts and suicide attempts informed the United Nations’ position.”
As the General Assembly report concludes:
“Practices of ‘conversion therapy’, based on the incorrect and harmful notion that sexual and gender diversity are disorders to be corrected, are discriminatory in nature. Furthermore, actions to subject lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or gender-diverse persons to practices of ‘conversion therapy’ are by their very nature degrading, inhuman and cruel and create a significant risk of torture. States must examine specific cases in the light of the international, regional and local framework on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and/or punishment.”