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Anti-Conversion Therapy Bill Gaining Ground in U.K.

conversion therapy

The bill could end the use of the scientifically unsound practice by unregulated therapists.

Conversion therapy could become illegal in the United Kingdom under the government's new "LGBT Action Plan" that will be proposed next week, reports BuzzFeed News.

The action plan comes along with the results of the largest-ever survey of LGBT people in the U.K. The plan refers to conversion therapy as "gay cures," which have already been condemned as dangerous and ineffective by every major mental health body in Britain, most notably the Department of Health and Social Care and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

"The concept behind conversion therapy, that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is something that needs to be cured, is highly offensive and incredibly damaging to those exposed to it," Parliament member Sarah Champion told BuzzFeed News. She is also a member of the Women and Equalities Committee.

"The government LGBT Action Plan must be robust in tackling this whether the therapy is presented as medical treatment or part of a religious practice. Any action short of a ban of conversion therapy will be a disservice to the LGBT community," she added.

It is well documented that these "treatments" do not work but mainly worsen the suffering of LGBT patients and heighten the risk of suicide.

Despite scientific proof of how harmful conversion therapy is, it is only banned in 13 states in America, and then only for use on minors. Most recently, the Massachusetts House passed a ban on the practice; it now awaits action by the state's Senate. It is also illegal in Malta, Ecuador, and Switzerland.

In the U.K., art and music therapists are regulated by the state, but psychotherapists are not - and the titles are no protected, so anyone can call themselves one and charge patients for their "services," a loophole that makes it easy for a scientifically unsound practice like conversion therapy to carry on. A 2009 study by psychiatrist and professor Michael King found that approximately one in six herapists or psychiatrists in the country have either attempted to "make a gay patient straight" or somehow lessen their homosexuality.

The use of junk science to victimize gay citizens in Britain dates back to the 1970s, when psychiatrists used aversion therapy to "cure patients of homosexuality," BuzzFeed notes. These practices involved subjecting patients to electric shocks and drugs that triggered vomiting and defecation, some of which led to death.

This is not the first time British officials have attempted to banish "gay cures." In 2016, Conservative Member of Parliament Mike Freer sought out testimonies from victims of conversion therapy in conjunction with LGBT nonprofit Stonewall as evidence that legislation is necessary to end the practice. Last year MP Geraint Davies introduced a similar bill in Parliament calling for regulation of psychotherapists and counselors to initiate the process of banning the cruel treatments, but it failed to pass.

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Ariel Sobel