Northern Ireland passes symbolic motion to ban conversion therapy

6 June, 2024

The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a symbolic motion calling for a ban on conversion therapy. Northern Ireland Humanists, which is a member of the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition, called the vote a significant move towards equality and human rights.

Conversion ‘therapy’ is a discredited and harmful practice, usually rooted in false and often pseudoscientific or religious beliefs about what causes people to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). The UK Government Equalities Office defines so-called ‘conversion therapies’ as ‘techniques intended to change someone’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity’. Often happening in secret in closed-off religious communities, evidence shows that it leads to lasting damage for the people subjected to these ‘treatments’. It can result in lasting mental scars, self-harm, and even suicide. Victims are often young and vulnerable, and are more likely to face abuse from their families or communities because of their sexual orientation or 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.

The motion draws on the findings of the recent publication A Study of Conversion Practices in Northern Ireland by Professor Fidelma Ashe and Dr Danielle Mackle. It highlights the detrimental impacts of conversion therapy and underscores the urgent need for legislative action.

Reaffirming its commitment to human rights, the Assembly expressed strong support for an outright ban on all forms of conversion therapy. The motion calls on the Minister for Communities to introduce effective legislation to ban these practices before the end of the current Assembly mandate.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:

‘This motion is a crucial step towards protecting LGBT people from these harmful practices. We urge the Government and Assembly members to act swiftly and create comprehensive legislation that bans these practices once and for all.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at or phone 07918 975795.

Read more about  Humanists UK’s work on banning conversion practices.

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. 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.