More than 300 religious leaders urge ban on ‘conversion therapy’

The unusually bold campaign in China against gay conversion therapy was inspired by the 2017 film 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'. AFP/STR

Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, Taiwan, Switzerland as well as parts of Australia, Canada and the United States have banned conversion therapy.

More than 300 religious leaders from 35 countries on Wednesday called for a ban on “conversion therapies” which attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The call for an end to the practice, often done in the name of a religious faith, was issued in a statement by the British Ozanne Foundation before a London conference.

Among the signatories were representatives of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh faiths, including Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“We call for all attempts to change, suppress or erase a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression –- commonly known as ‘conversion therapy’ – to end, and for these harmful practices to be banned,” they said.

The practice is sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy” but experts widely regard it as pseudo-scientific, ineffective and dangerous.

It has drawn particular attention in the United States, where it has affected hundreds of thousands of individuals.

But a report published by the New York-based LGBT advocacy group OutRight Action International has said it exists “nearly everywhere in the world”.

Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, Taiwan, Switzerland as well as parts of Australia, Canada and the United States have banned conversion therapy.

Other countries also have local bans or mental health policies that prohibit the practice. The UK and Ireland are preparing national bans.

The London conference is funded by the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has regularly promised to ban conversion therapy, calling it “absolutely abhorrent”.

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