There is no standard legal definition of “conversion therapy”, but it broadly refers to interventions that seek to suppress or change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Government Equalities Office states that these techniques can take many forms and commonly range from “pseudo-psychological treatments to spiritual counselling. In extreme cases, they may also include surgical and hormonal interventions, or so-called ‘corrective’ rape.” Research for the UN found that conversion therapy currently happens in at least 68 countries worldwide and that practices are carried out by private and public mental health-care providers, faith-based organisations, traditional healers and state authorities, such as police, military and school authorities. It also found that young people are disproportionally subjected to practices of conversion therapy. The UK Government ran a national survey in 2017 of the experiences of LGBT and intersex people, including experiences of so-called conversion therapy. 2% of all respondents reported having previously undergone conversion therapy and a further 5% reported that they had been offered it. Respondents were most likely to say that faith organisations had conducted conversion therapy (51%), followed by healthcare providers or medical professionals (19%), and parents, guardians or other family members (16%).

A POSTnote in this area will provide an overview of available research on the scope of practices and experiences of people who have undergone conversion therapy in the UK. It will also provide an overview of relevant international research. Finally it will review research on public perception of conversion therapy and present a balanced overview of stakeholder perspectives.

Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash

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