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Humanists UK holds event to discuss harms of ‘conversion therapy’ in UK’s religious communities

Speakers discuss the harms of ‘conversion therapy.’

The harms of ‘conversion therapy’ and the long-lasting mental health impacts it has on victims was discussed at an event in London on Thursday, with a plea for opposition from churches and religious organisations that might be ignoring the dangers of the practice.

Hosted by Humanists UK, the event heard from a panel of speakers from different religious backgrounds who have either personally experienced ‘conversion therapy’, provided support for victims, or have taken a lead role within their community to try to stop the harmful practice.

The panel of speakers included: Evangelical Christian and founder of the Ozanne Foundation, Jayne Ozanne; Muslim spokesperson from LGBT group Hidayah, Nadia Fadih-Phoenix; Anglican priest, Rev’d David Allen; and Humanists UK Director of Community Services, Teddy Prout.

It included powerful personal stories from speakers about how they were offered or forced to have ‘conversion therapy’ as a way to ‘cure’ them of their sexuality. All the panelists strongly agreed that the evidence presented on ‘conversion therapy’ not only demonstrates that it doesn’t work, but also that the practice frequently causes lasting harm on those who have undertaken it.

According to the Ozanne Foundation, two in five who underwent the therapy reported that they had self-harmed. Religious organisations were by far the most likely group to have conducted conversion therapy.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for ‘conversion therapy’ to be banned, held the event to try and combat the practice in UK’s religious communities and raise awareness and support for victims. The panel of speakers called for the practice to end and the need for more pastoral support for victims or those at risk.

Humanists UK Director of Community Services Teddy Prout said:

‘“Conversion therapy” involves very coercive techniques which have the aim of suppressing a person’s sexuality. It can manifest in a number of ways, including “gay cure treatments” to convince someone they’re not gay, by forcing a person to get married, or through other awful and abusive methods, such as rape.

‘It is is still practised in the UK, mostly in closed-off religious communities, and all the evidence shows people subjected to “conversion therapy” experience long-lasting mental health problems and many of them need support but don’t get it.

The strong message out of the event was to “reach out, speak up, and to be yourself”. There was also a plea to engage with churches and religious organisations who might otherwise ignore the message, and a plea to MPs and others to call for this harmful practice to be stamped out for good.’

Last year Humanists UK spoke at the UN Human Rights Council, calling on the UK and other states where ‘conversion therapy’ is legal to ban it immediately. In July 2018 the UK Government said it would bring forward proposals to ban the practice.

NOTES:

For more information, contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

Find out more about Humanists UK’s work on conversion therapy at: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/conversion-therapy

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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