Canada bans ‘profane’ conversion therapy

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Justin Trudeau called it “a cowardly attempt to treat human beings like objects”

Canada has banned the controversial practice of conversion therapy.

It became the first country in the world to do so.

“It’s a cowardly attempt to treat human beings like objects, and at the end of the day it’s a practice that’s only deceiving young people and preventing them from taking a stand for who they are,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

About 30,000 Canadians visit therapists each year to undergo conversion therapy, which aims to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“In the 21st century, we do not impose the healing power of religion or the strength of religious conviction on our children,” Mr Trudeau said.

In response to a Conservative motion passed last month, the Liberal government said it would introduce “health laws in an upcoming budget that will prohibit the physical or psychological interventions to change one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

The practice is banned in a handful of European countries.

In the UK, conversion therapy can only be carried out on minors by a psychologist, unless there is a court order.

There are believed to be no more than four practitioners in England and Wales, according to the English College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists.

‘Change is a goal but not a matter of your gender identity’

In Britain, the ban has not had a major impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, with no studies of the number of people undergoing therapy.

Research also shows a narrow range of treatments for people seeking to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with some therapy to change gender identity, one to two sessions, and one-on-one time to talk through the difficulties they face.

In June 2016, the British Medical Association (BMA) called on all mental health professionals to stop offering conversion therapy to teenagers aged 14 and over.

LGBT therapy also remains illegal in the UK in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where a referendum in 2015 overturned a ban of the practice.

In 2016, a report from the Association of College of Psychotherapists found attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity through therapy was as ineffectual as physical abuse.

However, Robin Cowie, from the gay rights group Stonewall, who describes the practice as akin to sexual abuse, says the ban does not go far enough.

“To treat a person in this way not only undermines their health, it exposes them to harm and does not improve their psychological health,” he said.

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