Conversion therapy also known as reparative therapy is a process to change the sexual orientation of an individual. The process includes counseling by a psychologist and spiritual intervention to change the sexual orientation of an individual. Conversion therapy is based on the belief that sexual orientation and expression of sexuality is a voluntary and conscious choice of an individual. It is inspired by the narrative that the members of the LGBTQ community have deviated from the natural laws and need to be corrected. Conversion therapy has been used for decades to change the sexual orientation of the members of the LGBTQ community. According to a report of UCLA’s William’s Institute, an LGBTQ policy organization, approximately 700,000 LGBTQ adults have received conversion therapy. However, modern-day researches have proved that sexual orientation is not a conscious choice but it is part of human biology which cannot be changed.
Scientific evidence has proved that sexual orientation cannot be changed as it is part of human biology. Therefore, conversion therapy is not a solution to any problem. The members of the LGBTQ community who have undergone conversion therapy describe the process as a humiliating and abusive process, which is detrimental to both physical and member health. In this therapy, psychologists prescribe different psychotherapist medicines and in some cases use electric shock to change the sexual orientation of an individual. The use of these anti-depressants and psychotherapist medicines negatively affects the mental and physical health of an individual. Therefore, Individuals who have undergone conversion therapy have reported severe depression and higher rates of suicide.
The reports of negative consequences of psychotherapist medicines on the physical and mental health of individuals have resulted in the trend of talk therapies. In which an individual is engaged in discussion and convinced to change their sexual orientation. Religious believes and teachings have a significant role in these conversion therapies. Generally, homosexuality and religion are considered as two contradictory concepts and the members of the LGBTQ community are not welcome in religious gatherings. Therefore, different faith communities used to encourage conversion therapy to ensure the strict compliance of religious injunctions. Over time, the trend is changing. Human rights organizations and different medical associations have declared conversion therapy as an abusive process that led to negative consequences. Therefore, different faith communities are imposing restrictions on the practice of conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy is not only a humiliating process but it may be termed as torture and a violation of fundamental rights of the LGBTQ community. It has a very negative impact on the mental, and spiritual aspects of an individual’s life. Therefore, the members of the LGBTQ community are creating awareness about the negative consequences of conversion therapy and demanding a ban on the process. The struggle of the LGBTQ community has resulted in some positive developments. Such as the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives, a faith-based advocacy group, released a declaration on December 16, which has garnered worldwide support, with more than 370 signatures. An excerpt from the declaration reads “We ask for forgiveness from those whose lives have been damaged and destroyed on the pretext of religious teaching. We believe that love and compassion should be the basis of faith and that hatred can have no place in religion”.
The declaration of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBTQ+ Lives is a very positive development. Similarly, different religious authorities have supported a ban on conversion therapy and express their solidarity with the members of the LGBTQ+ community. In a video message, Bishop Paul Bayes, a leader at the Global Interfaith Commission and the Anglican bishop of Liverpool, England, asked the world to celebrate the “gift of our diversity.” This is a very powerful and beautiful message. It is a realization that the members of the LGBTQ+ community are part of God’s creation and God has authority over all creation. The acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community is the recognition of the diversity of God’s creation.
Similarly, different human rights organization, civil society, and other intellectuals have expressed their solidarity with the members of the LGBTQ+ community and demanded a ban on the practice of conversion therapy. Dr. Mary McAleese, a Catholic academic and former president of Ireland, said in a video on the campaign’s site. “We acknowledge with profound regret that some of our teachings created and continue to create oppressive systems that fuel intolerance”. This is a very powerful message and reflects the realization of the negative consequences of religious practices on the lives of thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals.
The awareness about the negative consequences of conversion therapy on the physical and mental health of the members of the LGBTQ+ community has resulted in some positive changes in the legal system. According to the report of the Movement Advancement Project, a policy think tank on sexuality and gender, twenty states in the United States of America have banned the practice of conversion therapy for a minor. However, twenty-six states have no policies and laws against the practice of conversion therapy. The state of New York had imposed a complete ban on conversion therapy for people of all ages but later on repeal the ban for adults. Similarly, the other member countries of the United Nations are taking measures against the practice of conversion therapy within their territorial jurisdictions.
Conversion therapy is an abusive and humiliating process. This process is based on false narratives and prejudices against the members of the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, it is high time that all states shall impose penal consequences on the practice of conversion therapy and ban conversion therapy within their territorial jurisdictions. Similarly, religious authorities shall play their role in creating awareness about the negative consequences of conversion therapy on the mental and physical health of an individual. Although, there are some positive developments in this regard the intensity of the problem demands immediate action. Therefore, it is important that we all recognize and accept the members of the LGBTQ community. Instead of adopting conversion therapy to change the sexual orientation of the LGBTQ+ community, we shall change our attitude towards them.