End conversion practices, UN tells UK

9 April, 2024

Pictured: LGBT Humanists Coordinator Nick Baldwin

The UN Human Rights Committee has told the UK to prohibit conversion practices. LGBT Humanists submitted evidence on conversion practices to the Committee and welcomes the recommendation, which reflects its concerns.

Humanists and the UN Human Rights Committee

The Human Rights Committee is made up of independent experts that monitor how well countries uphold the rights laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Each state that has ratified the treaty is reviewed on an eight-year cycle. This was the UK’s eighth review by the Committee.  Humanists UK and Humanist Society Scotland had made a joint submission to raise concerns about religious discrimination across a number of sectors including education and criminal justice, in response to a list of priorities the Committee had previously identified.

LGBT Humanists submitted further evidence on conversion practices following an informal briefing where the Committee requested further details on the current status of a conversion therapy ban in the UK. LGBT Humanists highlighted that conversion practices remain a prevalent and ongoing problem, highlighting that groups offering conversion ‘therapy’, such as the Christian-run Core Issues Trust, operate in the UK freely. As a registered charity in Northern Ireland, the Core Issues Trust is entitled to certain tax exemptions. 

In its Concluding Observations, the Committee said:

‘While welcoming the information provided by the State party that it intends to introduce legislation in England and Wales that will ban the use of so-called conversion therapy, the Committee is concerned about reports that conversion therapy is considered as a protected religious practice in Northern Ireland.’

The Committee recommends that the UK proceeds to ban conversion practices, inclusive of trangender people, in all jurisdictions.

LGBT Humanists Coordinator Nick Baldwin commented:

‘We would like to thank the UN Human Rights Committee for raising conversion practices as a priority issue with the UK and for seeking out evidence to help inform its recommendations. We are pleased to see our concerns reflected in the Committee’s report but remain extremely anxious that this important and urgent issue needs to be raised over and over again.

The Government’s failure to enact a ban means that LGBT people continue to be harmed by these abhorrent so-called conversion practices. We continue to campaign for a ban that will protect the whole of our community from these harms. It’s unacceptable.’

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. Humanists UK is strongly committed to freedom of religion or belief, but that freedom should be limited where it causes harm, and conversion therapy is harmful. Humanists UK believes that 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 Kathy Riddick at press@humanists.uk or phone 07534 248 596.

Read LGBT Humanists’ submission to the UN Human Rights Committee.

Read the UN Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations.

Read more about our work on banning conversion therapy.

Find out more about LGBT Humanists.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.