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Harmful Treatment – the global reach of so-called conversion therapy

Published: 2019

A report providing a global snapshot of what is known about “conversion therapy” around the world.

Key findings:

  • The main perpetrators and advocates of “conversion therapy” are people acting in the name of religion or pseudo-healthcare, often with strong pressure or coercion from family.
  • 22% of respondents experienced “conversion therapy” directly. 34% of those sought it for themselves. The rest were coerced.
  • These practices are harmful and never work; instead, they cause deep, lasting trauma that affects every realm of life.
  • Persistence of “conversion therapy” is directly related to societal beliefs about LGBTIQ people and the degree to which their lives are accepted and embraced within families, faiths, and societies at large.
  • Very few countries have done anything to tackle “conversion therapy”; an outright ban exists in only four countries (Malta, Brazil, Ecuador, Taiwan).

United Kingdom
  • In February 2019, the UK Government Equalities Office released its summary report of the first-ever National LGBT Survey to which 108,000 people responded. Of these, 2% had undergone conversion or reparative therapy in an attempt to be “cured,” and 5% had been offered treatment.
  • For transgender respondents, 9% of transgender men had been offered treatment and 4% had undergone it. Among those respondents who had undergone “conversion therapy,” 51% had received treatment from faith groups and 19% had received it from health care professionals.
  • A 2018 “Faith and Sexuality Survey,” which was administered in the U.K., found that among those respondents who had gone through some sort of “conversion therapy” (10% of the 4,613), more than half reported mental health issues.
  • Of those who sought change, nearly two-thirds said that they had been “ashamed of my desires,” while nearly 75% said they sought change because they believed that their desires were “sinful.”
  • Less than one-third said that “they had gone on to lead a happy and fulfilled life,” and almost 50% said that they had “found it hard to accept myself for who I am.”
  • Nearly 20% (91 people) said they had attempted suicide, while nearly 60% (193 people) said they had had suicidal thoughts.
  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, and the British Psychological Society and a coalition of others in the U.K have all condemned the practice of “conversion therapy”.
  • In March 2018, the European Parliament voted by a wide margin for an amendment to the annual EU report on fundamental rights, which, for the first time ever, condemned “gay cure” therapy and urged member states to ban the destructive practice.

The World
  • As of mid-2019, only four countries had banned conversion therapy: Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, and Taiwan.
  • Other countries have sub-national and municipal civil or criminal bans and/or medical or mental health policies or other legal or regulatory mechanisms that prohibit the practice, while several countries (such as UK, Ireland, and Australia) are preparing national bans.
  • Further, some countries have disallowed mental health diagnoses based on sexual orientation. These regulations do not constitute bans, but they do effectively censure or revoke licenses of health professionals who engage in SOGIE change practices.


OutRight Action International, 2019. Harmful Treatment. New York: OutRight Action International. [pdf] [Accessed 23/08/2019]

Available at:


UK Government Equalities Office, 2019. National LGBT Survey: Summary Report. London: UK Government Equalities Office. [pdf] Available at: < uk/government/publications/national-lgbt-survey-summary-report/national-lgbt-survey-summary-report>

UK Government Equalities Office, 2018. LGBT Action Plan. London: UK Government Equalities Office. [pdf] Available at: <>

Ozanne Foundation, 2018. Faith and sexuality survey - executive report. London: Ozanne Foundation. [pdf] Available at: <>

UK Council of Psychotherapy, 2014. U.K. Conversion Therapy Consensus Statement. London: UK Council of Psychotherapy. [pdf] Available at: <>

European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, 2018. European Parliament takes a stance against LGBTI conversion therapies for the first time. Available at: <>

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, 2019. State-Sponsored Homophobia. Geneva: ILGA