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Northern Ireland Government considers ‘conversion therapy’ ban

Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly

Northern Ireland may become the first part of the UK to ban the pseudoscientific and abusive practice known as ‘conversion therapy’.

Justice Minister Naomi Long and Communities Minister Carál Ni Chuilin, committed in a meeting with Minister for Health Robin Swann to take forward work to ban the harmful practice.

Northern Ireland Humanists, which has led calls to ban conversion therapy, welcomed the progress from the Executive. It is also calling for immediate action from Health and Social Care (HSC, the Northern Ireland equivalent  of the NHS) to commit to a Memorandum of Understanding on never permitting it, as NHS and psychotherapy and counselling bodies in England, Scotland, and Wales have previously done.

Humanists UK and its section LGBT Humanists have long campaigned for the end of conversion therapy, citing the psychological and often physical harm it causes. In 2018, Theresa May’s UK Government promised to ban the practice on a UK-wide basis across religious, medical, and non-medical settings, but as of 2020 no progress has been made.

The Core Issues Trust, a Northern Ireland registered charity which offers conversion therapy, has previously stated its opposition to legislation that to protect LGBT people from the practice.

Kathryn Kerr, Northern Ireland Humanists lead for LGBT Humanists, commented,

‘We are pleased to hear the Executive is taking the issue seriously, and we would like to extend our support and expertise to ministers in drawing up plans to outlaw conversion therapy.

‘We want to see a full ban in legislation, but in the meantime, conversion therapy continues to threaten and harm LGBT young people. That’s why we are also calling on the HSC to commit to a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Health to never participate in or endorse conversion therapy.’

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said,

‘The scientific consensus on conversion therapy is clear – it is a religious pseudoscience masquerading as healthcare, and the damage it inflicts can be extremely severe. We celebrate the moves being signalled in Northern Ireland towards a ban and we would like to see these mirrored in government offices in London, Cardiff, and Edinburgh as well.’


For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at

Read more about our work on ending ‘conversion therapy’.

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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