Opinion Former Article

Panel to discuss harms of ‘conversion therapy’ in UK’s religious communities

The harms of ‘conversion therapy’ and the extent to which it is still practised in religious communities across the UK will be discussed at an event in London this week.

The event, hosted by Humanists UK, will hear 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 include:

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

Humanists UK Director of Community Services, Teddy Prout

Humanists UK, which campaigns for ‘conversion therapy’ to be banned, says the session aims to shine a light on how widespread conversion therapy is in the UK, who is conducting it, and what it and religious communities are doing to stop the practice.

According to the Ozanne Foundation, half of LGB people who have been offered conversion therapy were offered it before they are 18 years old, and two in five who underwent the therapy report they have self-harmed. Faith organisations were by far the most likely group to have conducted conversion therapy (51% of those who received it had it conducted by faith groups), however this hides the religious motivation of many of the other groups such as community, family, other organisations, and religiously motivated medical groups.

The panel of speakers will explore answers to questions including ‘Should we treat “conversion therapy” as a part of the right to practice one’s religion and if not, why not?’ and, ‘What can be done to persuade religious leaders that conversion therapy is a bad course of action for all concerned?’

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.

‘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.

‘Conversion therapy is still practised in the UK, mostly in closed-off religious communities and while this requires a society-wide approach to solve we want to find out how those from various religious communities are trying to tackle this issue in their communities.’

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.

Media are invited to attend.

When: Thursday 28 March 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm

Where: Brockway Room, Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL, United Kingdom

If you are a journalist who would like to attend, contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07 393344293.

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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