Banning So-Called ‘Conversion Therapies’

09 April 2024

11 March 2024


On March 11th, 2024, the Equal Rights Coalition held a webinar titled “Banning So-Called ‘Conversion Therapy’”, as part of the programmatic agenda of the Coalition’s National Laws and Policies Thematic Group. This webinar, held in partnership by the ERC co-chairs and the Thematic Group’s co-chairs (Rainbow Railroad and the Republic of Malta), brought together a series of experts to discuss the development of public policies, criminal law reform and advocacy strategies in order to eliminate harmful practices known as “conversion therapy”. 

This webinar is meant to serve as a comprehensive and practical resource for state legislators hoping to introduce and implement bans on conversion therapy at national and sub-national levels. Panelists explored best practices and shared their country experiences navigating conflicting rights and interests, and developing policies from survivor-centered approaches. 

The webinar featured government representatives from Canada, the United States, Chile, and Norway, as well as civil society representatives including the Community Based Research Centre (Canada), and ILGA World as moderators. Its aim was to engage line ministers from ERC Member States with relevant responsibilities for criminal law reform, health, justice, and LGBTQI+ matters in a 90-minute-long panel discussion on the subject of conversion therapy.


This event took place in line with the Equal Rights Coalition’s Strategic Plan 2021-2026, specifically Strategic Objective 2 on ending violence and discrimination based on SOGIESC. The ERC is committed to sharing good practices on outlawing and ending harmful practices that seek to change the sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and/or sex characteristics of a person, and thus, encourages its members and other States to adopt laws and policies to end so-called “conversion therapies”.

Conversion therapy describes different types of interventions that claim to achieve a change in a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and thus claim to aim at changing people from gay, lesbian or bisexual to heterosexual, and from trans or gender diverse to cisgender. According to the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTQI+ persons endure severe pain and long-lasting psychological and physical damage as a result of conversion therapy practices. 

In his 2020 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Independent Expert discussed the impact of conversion therapy on victims, their human rights implications and their connection with violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as measures adopted to prevent them and to penalize or prosecute those who perform them and remedies provided to victims. According to the Independent Expert, these practices are “inherently discriminatory… cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and that depending on the severity or physical or mental pain and suffering inflicted to the victim, they may amount to torture.”

About the webinar

In this context, the webinar held by the ERC’s National Laws and Policies Thematic Group engaged representatives from several of its Member States, namely:

  • Nathalie Levman – Senior Counsel, Department of Justice, Canada
  • Kenneth Kero-Mentz – Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons, United States
  • Bjørk Gudmundsdottir Jonassen – Advisor, Department of Equality, Non-discrimination and International Affairs, Norway 
  • Felipe Peña – Mental Health Department, Ministry of Health, Chile

From civil society, the webinar also featured:

  • Michael Kwag – Executive Director, Community Based Research Centre, Canada
  • Lucas Ramón Mendos – Research Manager, ILGA World (moderator)

Altogether, the panelists offered reflections on the importance of approaching the issue of banning conversion therapies and practices from a holistic perspective, in light of the complexity of the subject matter. The webinar offered a space for ERC Member States to learn from each other based on case studies from countries with effective legislation on the topic, showcasing important legislative victories as well as numerous challenges from social, political, and legal perspectives. As such, most interventions highlighted the unnecessary harm caused to LGBTQI+ individuals who have been subjected to these practices, which often take place against the advice and recommendations of medical professionals and are informed by biases and stigmas that erroneously posit that homosexuality and gender variance can be corrected. 

Therefore, the examples shared by panelists focused on the need to safeguard the safety and integrity of LGBTQI+ persons in all aspects of the law, fostering collaboration and partnerships with civil society along the way in order to put an end to violent attempts at ‘conversion’ that are not based in scientific rigor nor human dignity. As well, panelists shared the importance of educational campaigns on the subject matter, in addition to comprehensive support and access to justice for those affected by these practices. Altogether, the wealth of knowledge based on real-life evidence and experience shared in this webinar serves as a starting point for ERC Member States and those beyond to put an end to patterns of violence plaguing LGBTQI+ individuals worldwide. 

To learn more about banning so-called conversion therapies and practices, access the webinar through the link above.

Webinar report by Doug A. Graffeo, Equal Rights Coalition Officer at LSVD

Category National Laws And Policies, English

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