England plans to become the first country in the world to outlaw “gay conversion therapy” as part of an effort to counter LGBT intolerance and discrimination.
The initiative follows a survey of over 18.000 LGBT people that found 2% of the 108,000 respondents had undergone conversion therapy while 5% had been offered it.
The announcement of the new initiative, coincides with Pride Week in London.
Gay conversion “therapies” which many describe as torture are based on the premise that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is a mental illness that can be “cured.” But there is no evidence that they work, and the techniques are discredited. Currently members of the UK professional bodies for counseling and psychotherapy are prohibited from using such techniques.
Ruth Hunt, chief executive of the British LGBT rights group Stonewall, greeted the government’s pledge as “an important first step” but added that it needs to lead to “tangible change.”
“Some people will be shocked by the findings. But for anyone who is LGBT, or has a family member or friend who is, these results will be sadly recognizable,” she said in a statement.
“Laws have improved and attitudes have changed but our society still treats LGBT people like second-class citizens.”