UK must protect all ‘conversion therapy’ victims, Humanists and Ozanne tell UN

21 June, 2022

At the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK and the Ozanne Foundation have raised the need for the UK protect all ‘conversion therapy’ victims. The call was made via a joint intervention to a debate with the UN’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Humanists UK and Ozanne called on him to visit the UK to observe the UK’s performance on this matter.

The call was made via a joint intervention. It was delivered by video by Humanists UK’s representative Tallulah Gordon, during a debate with the Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz. Tallulah said:

‘In April, the UK Government performed a double u-turn in less than 48 hours. First, it announced the abandonment of all plans to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales. Quickly retracting this, it declared that a criminal ban would go ahead but protections would only extend to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people – but not for trans people.

‘The Government’s own research found that trans people are twice as likely to have been offered conversion therapy compared to gay and bisexual people. An investigation into gender identity conversion therapy carried out by the Ozanne Foundation found that trans people faced beatings, deprivation, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, forced prayer, and exorcisms. Many of the trans respondents endured this abuse during adolescence, a critical time of development, causing lasting damage to their mental health.’

She went on to cite Uruguay and Canada as examples of the successful implementation of conversion therapy bans that protect both sexual orientation and gender identity.

The UK Government’s 2018 National LGBT Survey showed that 7% of LGBT people had undergone or been offered conversion therapy. Of those who had undergone it, 51% reported that it had been conducted by a religious group or in a religious setting. Such activities can include exorcisms and forced prayer. When people are experiencing such extreme distress over their sexual orientation or gender identity, they should be met with person-centred, therapeutically well-grounded support. They should not face coercive, medically worthless practices that seek to push them in a particular direction.


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

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Humanists UK is a provider of services to the non-religious public: humanist ceremonies, non-religious pastoral support, education services, counselling, events, membership, and support. In our provision of all these things the Equality Act protects from discrimination or harassment any person who ‘is proposing to undergo, is undergoing, or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex’. All Humanists UK personnel involved in providing goods or services must abide by this. The Equality and Human Rights Commission says in its guidance that, in providing goods or services, to deliberately address individuals as being of a gender other than their self-identified one is unlawful. We support the equality and human rights law settlement in the UK that provides these protections, as well as protections on grounds such as sex, sexual orientation, race, and others. As necessary, we will ensure our compliance with the law.

Humanists UK is also an ethical movement for social and political change. We support freedom of choice to the extent that it does not cause harm. In line with this, we have a longstanding commitment to supporting the human rights and dignity of trans people and their equal treatment. This led us to support recent proposals to ban conversion therapy on the basis of gender identity, as well as recent proposals around gender recognition.

Humanists UK is committed to freedom of thought and the free exchange of ideas. Beyond the parameters of the specific legal situations outlined above, we have no opinion on the definitional question of what should be meant by the words ‘man’ or ‘woman’, ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, and we know that this is a divisive subject of debate in politics, academia, and civil society. What we require of any of our staff, volunteers, accredited service providers, or other personnel engaging in such discussion is that they do so in a way that is compatible with our values, most obviously they have an obligation to, ‘engage in dialogue and debate rationally, intelligently, and with attention to evidence’ and ‘recognise the dignity of individuals and treat them with fairness and respect’.

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