Humanists UK and Ozanne Foundation call for action at UN on ‘conversion therapy’

28 June, 2021


Humanists UK and the Ozanne Foundation have made a joint intervention at the UN Human Rights Council. They called for greater collaboration between the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the Special Rapporteur on Religion or Belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, to end the practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’

The intervention was made by video by Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, during the plenary Interactive Dialogue with the UN Independent Expert. In his comments, he said:

‘Conversion therapy is damaging to all those who undertake it. Depression, anxiety, self-harm, an increased risk of suicide, poor educational outcomes, relationship breakdown, and homelessness are among just some of the long-term impacts. It has no scientific basis. And yet, it continues to take place. In Malaysia, conversion therapy is not only legalised, but endorsed by the Government. The passing of a new law in Hungary to ban schools from talking about sexuality or transgender issues is typical of moves that will lead to the normalisation of prejudice and leave vulnerable young LGBT people at risk of conversion therapy.

‘We champion the human right to freedom of religion or belief. But part of that right is that manifestations of beliefs can be legitimately restricted if they harm the rights of others. People experiencing distress over their sexual orientation or gender identity should not be exposed to coercive, medically discredited practices, even religious ones such as exorcisms and “healing prayer”. Over 370 senior religious leaders, representing all major religions, from around the world recently also supported this position.’

He asked the Special Expert ‘what plans he has to work with Dr Ahmed Shaheed to ensure that freedom of religion or belief is not abused to maintain these harmful practices?’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Watch the intervention.

Read the intervention.

More information on the Ozanne Foundation.

More information on our campaign work on ‘conversion therapy’.

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