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MENTAL HEALTH FOR ALL WEBINAR: THE EFFECTS OF CONVERSION THERAPY ON THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY

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MENTAL HEALTH FOR ALL WEBINAR: THE EFFECTS OF CONVERSION THERAPY ON THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY

Our webinar The Effects of Conversion Therapy on the LGBTQIA+ Community, in the Mental Health For All series explored how members of the LGBTQIA+ community across the world are under pressure to be 'treated' for their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Our speakers for this webinar included:

  • Dr. Shruti Chakravarty, Mariwala Health Initiative, India
  • Yvonne Wamari, OutRight Action International, Kenya
  • Robbie de Santos, Stonewall, UK
  • Dr. Amir Ahuja, Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, US
  • Barbra Wangare, East African Trans Health Advocacy Network, Kenya

 

Over the course of the webinar, our panelists emphasised that conversion practices are deeply problematic and harmful to members of the LGBTQIA+ Community. Though there has been increasing global momentum on this issue with countries such as France, Canada and New Zealand banning these practices, our speakers highlighted that governments and international actors still have much to do to protect the rights and dignity of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Stonewall UK’s Robbie De Santos explained that conversion ‘therapy’ or practices are attempts to suppress or change people’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and often take place in religious, therapeutic or medical settings and also within the family. Barbra Wangare from EATHAN shared that in East Africa, religious communities would often hold prayers to “cast out demons,” and queer or trans individuals would be pressured to partake in rituals that involve: being slashed by holy palm trees and covered in herbs and oils, being shackled and starved or institutionalised and being subjected to violence to expel “spirits.” 

Representing the psychiatric community, Dr Amir Ahuja clarified that these practices often rely on pseudo-science and are not supported by research and since 1973, the American Psychiatric Association has acknowledged that homosexuality is not an illness. From their research and experience speaking to people with lived experience (PWLE), our panel has found that survivors often develop deep, psychological trauma and often turn to harmful coping methods in an attempt to handle societal rejection. Dr Amir Ahuja adds that up to 16,000 youths in the US will be exposed to “reparative” or SOGI change efforts and young people that have experienced this are up to eight times more likely to attempt suicide. “The trauma makes it really hard to exist in this society and trust people,” says Barbra Wangare.

The panel came to a consensus that global change requires a multi-faceted approach. OutRight Action International has been leading the production of various global reports to accelerate global momentum on the issue and have found that meaningful change is only possible with a broad base of international support. OutRight’s Yvonne Wamari acknowledges that advocates must continue building a body of knowledge and evidence with experts in the health and mental health field to raise awareness of the wider implications of these practices. Dr Shruti Chakravarty notes that the mental health field must ensure that it is well-equipped to support this work and also support survivors from the LGBTQIA+ community. Leveraging the UN and global framework on this issue is especially useful for ongoing advocacy as it grounds the issue in the international human rights context, says Robbie de Santos. Amplifying the voices of survivors is imperative for this framing and must be central in efforts to advocate for change moving forward.