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UK leader promises conversion therapy ban as Israel moves forward with its own bill

Boris Johnson
Boris JohnsonPhoto: Shutterstock

Conservative U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to ban conversion therapy, calling the practice “absolutely abhorrent,” while Israel’s legislature has moved forward with a ban.

Johnson said that the government will bring forth a bill after a study on the subject has been completed.

Related: J.K. Rowling likes tweet that supports conversion therapy

“On the gay conversion therapy thing, I think that’s absolutely abhorrent and has no place in a civilized society, and has no place in this country,” Johnson said.

“What we are going to do is a study right now on, you know, where is this actually happening, how prevalent is it, and we will then bring forward plans to ban it.”

“We’re delighted that Boris Johnson has listened to our calls for a ban on conversion therapy,” said the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign in a statement. “Now we await action – LGBTQ+ people have been tortured for long enough.”

The transgender U.K. organization Gendered Intelligence noticed that Johnson said “gay conversion therapy,” which means he might have been referring to a bill that would ban conversion therapy for sexual orientation but not gender identity, or he may have mis-spoken.

“Whilst we hope the prime minister used ‘gay conversion therapy’ for brevity, we must ensure the ban on conversion therapy covers all LGBT people, including trans people,” the group told the BBC. “We have to make sure we don’t allow trans conversion therapy through the backdoor.”

Conversion therapy attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in order to make them straight or cisgender, and it has been denounced by major medical associations – including the American Medical Association and the British Psychological Society – because it is linked to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

A 2013 survey showed that 84 percent of former patients who tried ex-gay therapy said it inflicted lasting shame and emotional harm. Numerous conversion therapy advocates have later come out as still gay and apologized for the harm that conversion therapy causes.

The U.K. isn’t the only country considering banning conversion therapy. The Knesset – Israel’s legislature – moved forward with a bill to ban conversion therapy in a 42 to 36 vote.

The bill would take away a therapist’s license for five years if caught practicing conversion therapy, and it carries steep penalties including fines and jail time for repeat offenders.

Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz of the left-wing Meretz party introduced the bill and called the vote a “historic moment.”

The religious conservative United Torah Judaism Party denounced the proposed ban, saying it would harm “the holiness of the family.” The party – which represents seven of the Knesset’s 120 members – was so upset by the bill that it withdrew the centrist Blue and White governing coalition.

The bill still needs to pass two more readings in the Knesset.

Other countries are also working on potential conversion therapy bans, including Canada, France, and Norway.

In May, Albania and Germany joined Malta, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, and several other countries in banning the practice. Currently, 20 U.S. states have banned conversion therapy.

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