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Northern Ireland Assembly backs ‘conversion therapy’ ban

The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion in support of a ban on so called ‘conversion therapy.’ The motion, which was put forward by Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MLAs Doug Beattie and John Stewart, calls on the Minister for Communities to bring forward legislation to ban these practices within this session of the Assembly, i.e. within the next year. Northern Ireland Humanists, which is a part of the Ban Conversion Therapy NI coaltion, met with and briefed MLAs ahead of this vote, and encouraged its members and supporters to back a 25,000-strong petition which was presented in the Assembly at the beginning of the month.

The motion states,

‘That this Assembly rejects the harmful practice widely referred to as conversion therapy; notes that the UK Government National LGBT Survey in 2018 reported that 2% of respondents had undergone conversion therapy with a further 5% having been offered it; acknowledges the damage this practice causes to the mental health of those who are subjected to it; further acknowledges that this practice has been widely rejected by medical professionals; declares that it is fundamentally wrong to view our LGBTQ community as requiring a fix or cure; and calls on the Minister for Communities to commit to bringing forward legislation before the end of the current Assembly mandate to ban conversion therapy in all its forms.’

The motion was supported by all parties except the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Jim Allister, the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice. In the debate, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey confirmed that her officials had already begun the process of drafting the legislation to ban conversion therapy. It could make Northern Ireland the first part of the UK to bring forward such a ban.

An amendment to the motion brought forward by the DUP to exempt certain religious activities such as preaching, praying, and pastoral support- even when they are coercive – was rejected by 28 votes to 59.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented,

‘We welcome today’s debate as recognition that the human rights of LGBT people are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive to protect and advance. Conversion therapy is a highly coercive practice that can be deeply harmful to those who experience it. We hope that a ban is now brought about as quickly as possible.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about our work on conversion therapy.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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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