January 7, 2022 marks an important date for people who are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community in Canada — conversion therapies are now illegal. UCTE wants to take the time to explain what conversion therapy is and the path taken to get legislation passed to eradicate this practice.
What is Conversion Therapy?
Firstly, conversion therapy is a pseudo-scientific treatment which discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The term refers to practices used to change a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, in other words, changing the sexual orientation of a gay, lesbian or bisexual person into a heterosexual person, and a trans or gender variant person into a cisgender person.
These practices designate these people as “ill”. Public and private mental health care providers who use such practices on their patients may use psychotherapeutic, medical or faith-based approaches to achieve their ends. Patients who undergo conversion therapy often suffer severe pain and long-term psychological and physical trauma.
Here are some testimonies:
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What is Happening Today
Few countries today have criminalized conversion therapy. After two attempts to do so in Canada, the Criminal Code sanctions finally came into effect on January 7, 2022. This bill was unanimously approved in both the House of Commons and the Senate.
This means that, from now on, anyone who seeks to subject someone of any age, consenting or not, to so-called conversion therapy could face up to five years in prison.
UCTE supports such progress in Canada, but the battle to eradicate conversion therapy internationally is not over. The United Nations also addressed this global issue at the Human Rights Council in May 2020 by tabling a Report of the Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Conversion therapies poses a risk to the lives of LGBTQ2S+ people around the world. Apart from Canada, few other countries have banned them, namely Brazil, Ecuador, Germany and Malta.