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Northern Ireland plans to ban ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBT+ people

Northern Ireland plans to ban ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBT+ people

  • Northern Ireland’s Health Ministry said it was too busy with coronavirus but ministers have found a way forward.
Carál Ni Chuilín.

Northern Irish ministers have agreed to ban ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBT+ people.

The fresh initiative comes after the region’s Health Ministry said in July it was too busy with COVID-19 to move forward on a ban.

Meanwhile the UK has promised for two years it will ban attempts to ‘cure’ people’s sexuality or gender identity. However, so far no part of the UK has advanced bills to do so through parliament.

Northern Ireland’s breakthrough came when Communities Minister Carál Ni Chuilín agreed to take the policy lead on the issue. She did so after meating with her colleagues, Health Minister Robin Swannand and Justice Minister Naomi Long.

That indicates their three major parties – Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionist Party and Alliance Party – are on board.

However, even that may not be a guarantee the proposals will become law. Marriage equality stalled for years in Northern Ireland while the powerful Democratic Unionist Party blocked it.

Under Northern Ireland’s unique political system, the DUP was able to prevent change despite the majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly and most Northern Irish voters supporting marriage equality.

‘Full support’

Irish Legal News reported that Justice Minister Long of the Alliance Party had requested the meeting.

She acted after UUP politician Swann’s Health Ministry said in July it was ‘not in a position to take forward the issue of a legislative ban on reparative or conversion therapy by private operations’ because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Long tweeted after the meeting: ‘Given [Communities Minister Ni Chuilín, Sinn Féin] is reviewing the Sexual Orientation Strategy, this is the best vehicle to take this forward and she has my full support in doing so.’

Meanwhile, south of the border, Ireland is also planning to ban ‘conversion therapy’.

The UK government has also vowed to move forward. However, it hasn’t yet revealed the details of its plans. It is not yet clear if the proposals will protect trans people. Meanwhile it is not clear if the government will allow opt-outs for religious organizations or if the ban will have legal force. 

Psychologists and psychiatrists around the world agree that LGBT+ identities can’t be changed. Moreover, experts say the ‘therapies’ and ‘cures’ are often dangerous. In some cases they even involved torture.

As a result, many countries are now considering bans.

So far only Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, Taiwan and Germany have introduced legal bans.

However, Israel, Canada, The Netherlands, Australia and Chile are also considering outlawing ‘conversion therapy’.

There are already bans in 20 US states: New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Utah and Virginia as well as Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

Moreover, Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for the presidency, has promised he will ban the ‘therapies’ if he gets to the White House.

Meanwhile international LGBT+ organization ILGA World predicted 2020 could be a breakthrough year on the issue worldwide.