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Ten percent of LGBTI Australians at risk of damaging ‘conversion therapy’

Ten percent of LGBTI Australians at risk of damaging ‘conversion therapy’

A new report urges a ban on conversion therapy for young people (Photo: Pixabay)

Up to 10 per cent of LGBTI Australians are at risk of damaging faith-based ‘conversion therapy’.

At its most extreme, therapies to change LGBTI Australians’ sexuality or gender identity can amount to torture.

Conversion or cure ‘therapies’ attempt to change LGBTI people’s sexuality or gender identity. They often use therapy, prayer, and even torture or violence to fix the persons perceived ‘brokenness’.

A landmark study details the abuse suffered and urges Australia’s lawmakers to urgently legislate to prevent health practitioners, social workers and teachers from engaging in the practice.

Worryingly, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously said conversion therapy ‘is not an issue’ for him.

‘Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice: Responding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australia’ was published Monday (15 October) by La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre.

‘The conversion movement’s activities are proven to be ineffective and harmful’, said Anna Brown, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.

‘Telling someone they are broken or sick because of who they are is profoundly psychologically damaging’.

Ice baths and electrodes

Monday’s report reveals the struggles of 15 LGBTI Australians who underwent therapy.

Shockingly, there are at least ten organisations publicly advertising therapies in Australia and New Zealand.

The practice emerged in Australian conservative Christian communities in the 1970s but continues to be promoted in churches, mosques and synagogues.

One respondent, who is referred to as Mary, underwent conversion therapy in the 1980s.

She reported being forced to take ice baths while she was prayed over. She was also chained to her bed while electrodes were placed on her labia.

Mary’s story is dramatic and horrific. But for most conversion therapy survivors ‘it was the insidious and unrelenting ex-gay messaging that ate away at their wellbeing and self-worth’, according to the report.

For example, one respondent ‘prayed the gay away’ for 15 years. When they finally realized nothing would change, they said: ‘It put me in the darkest place that I’ve ever been … withdrawing completely, crying myself to sleep a lot at night’.

Australian Greens senator, Janet Rice, welcomed the report. ‘Gay and trans conversion practices are grounded in homophobia and transphobia’, she said.

‘LGBTI+ people don’t need to change, society needs to change. No LGBTI+ person should be made to feel shame or fear on account of their sexual or gender identity’.


Debate is raging over religious freedom in Australia since details of a government report suggesting religious schools should be exempt from anti-discrimination legislation emerged.

Morrison this weekend, however, said the anti-discrimination legislation would be updated to protect the rights of LGBTI students.

Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice says adults seeking faith-based guidance over sexuality and gender identity should be allowed to do so.

However, the report suggests banning healthcare professionals and others from conversion practices against adults.

Importantly, it says conversion therapy in any form should be banned for children. Furthermore, the report suggests withdrawing funding from schools that perform conversions.

The report also suggests raising awareness in religious communities of the damage the practices cause. Australia’s Senate last month passed a motion to tackle the rise in LGBTI conversion therapy in the country.

The motion condemned all forms of gender and sexual orientation change efforts and called on the federal government to encourage Australia’s states and territories to ban conversion therapy.

‘We urge governments across the country to respond to this harm, particularly the acute vulnerability of children and young people subjected to conversion practices without consent,’ Brown said.

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