Washington D.C. July 17, 2020. – On July 14, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (IE SOGI), Victor Madrigal-Borloz, launched his report on practices of so-called “conversion therapy” in an interactive online event in Spanish and Portuguese, following his presentation to the Human Rights Council on July 7-9, where he explained the severity of these practices, and the need for a global ban to protect LGBTI people.
The event included the participation of the UN Resident Coordinator in Honduras, Alice Shackelford, and Andrés Sánchez Thorin, Deputy Representative and Officer-in-Charge of the Regional Office for Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to the report, “conversion therapy” is used as an umbrella term to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature, all of which have in common the belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed. Such practices aim (or claim to aim) at changing people from gay, lesbian, or bisexual to heterosexual and from trans or gender diverse to cisgender.
In the report, Madrigal-Borloz provided examples of interventions applied to attempt conversion which include acts of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse; electrocution and forced medication; and isolation and confinement, as well as verbal abuse and humiliation. It also shows that conversion therapy puts LGBTI people through many forms of physical and mental abuse, which constitutes inhumane, cruel, and degrading treatment and can amount to torture depending on the severity of pain and suffering inflicted. “All practices which attempt forms of conversion are inherently humiliating, degrading, and discriminatory,” he explains.
The report also examines the perpetrators, promoters, and economics surrounding these practices, showing that they are oftentimes a lucrative business for different providers worldwide. It notes that in some places, such as Ecuador, the average monthly cost for internment in these centers can be estimated to be around $500 per month.
Leading up to this event, Madrigal-Borloz carried out a series of consultations and received inputs from different regions around the world on these practices. This included an expert meeting held at Harvard University, where over 30 experts and activists from various countries came together to discuss this important topic. The meeting, supported by the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, opened dialogue on the subject which was vital for the elaboration of the report.
During the event, the IE SOGI highlighted that “there have been norms on what is considered sexual orientation and gender identity, and those who fall outside of those norms, such as LGBTI people, suffer stigma and discrimination.”
UN Deputy Representative Andrés Sánchez confirmed that, “The report reveals that these conversion therapies are carried out in all regions of the world and by a wide range of actors and include the active participation of family members and community members. It also highlights how children are vulnerable to these practices that cause serious and irreversible damage to their well-being.”
He continued by explaining that “the description of the pain and suffering of people who have undergone these so-called conversion therapies should deeply concern the entire population and the States to ensure that there is respect and guarantees of their human rights.”
The event was livestreamed through Facebook and attendees from various countries in Latin America joined. Attendees expressed their questions, concerns, and gratitude, and acknowledged the importance of these findings for their communities and how they are the first steps towards change.
Based on the findings in his report, the Independent Expert calls for a global ban on such practices and issues the following recommendations to States:
- Take urgent measures to protect children and young people from practices of “conversion therapy.”
- Carry out campaigns to raise awareness among parents, families and communities about the invalidity and ineffectiveness of and the damage caused by practices of “conversion therapy.”
- Adopt and facilitate healthcare and other services related to the exploration, free development, and/or affirmation of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- Foster dialogue with key stakeholders, including medical and health professional organizations, faith-based organizations, educational institutions, and community-based organizations to raise awareness about the human rights violations connected to practices of “conversion therapy.”
Race and Equality continues to support the work of the Mandate of the Independent Expert on SOGI and joins the call for a global ban on practices of “conversion therapy.”
To learn more about the report and watch this presentation, please follow the links below:
Full Report: https://undocs.org/A/HRC/44/53
On July 10, there was another launch event in English. Watch the English presentation here: