Is conversion therapy still legal?

Queer people are more and more visible and open about their sexuality. However, queerness is not always accepted and is even criminalized in 71 countries across the globe. Did you know that Conversion therapy is still legal in these countries? You may be living in one of them.

History of Conversion therapy


Homosexuality was coded as a mental illness in the late 19th century, but this was later disproved by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. The idea that homosexuality is an illness that can be cured is what brought conversion therapy into existence. Back in the late 19th century, a German psychiatrist named Albert Von Schrenck-Notzing stated that he could turn any queer person straight with only 45 seconds of hypnosis and a trip to a brothel. Ridiculous right? However, many people believed this to be true, as it is part of human nature to always be afraid of the unknown. Unbeknownst to him, Schrenck-Notzing’s claims led the creation of conversion therapy. 

How does Conversion therapy work? 

It is difficult to know what counts as conversion therapy as there is no exact definition. Still, by and large, it is defined as the dangerous practice that aims to change one’s sexual orientation and ‘cure’ them of their deviant sexual desires (essentially, anything that doesn’t fit the mold of hetero-normal urges, including homosexuality, bisexuality and gender-fluidity). The most common tool used in conversion therapy is “talk therapy,” where a licensed therapist or priest talks to you about how homosexuality is ‘immoral’ and ‘against nature’. However, physical abuse is also used in the most extreme case to discourage people from acting on their sexual desires. If you are under 18 in the United States, you can end up in a conversion camp as long as the camp has your parents’ signed consent.

Do yourself a favor and stream Boy Erased on Netflix or read Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name. Starring the critically acclaimed Nicole Kidman, the movie was adapted from a real-life story and the atrocities of conversion camps and how it destroys a person’s psyche. Have your tissues ready because this is a real tearjerker.

Boy erased

Where is Conversion therapy legal?

Believe it or not but conversion therapy is still legal in even the most progressive countries in the world, like the United Kingdom and 30 states in the United States. Though some jurisdictions and states like New York have banned conversion therapy, it is still legal in most Southern and Republican-leaning States. Some countries like Canada, Australia, and Spain have regional laws that prevent conversion therapy, while countries like Fiji, Samoa, and Argentina have an indirect ban.

Fight to abolish conversion therapy.

The World Health Organization states that continuing this belief that homosexuality can be cured is doing a disservice to scientific advancement. According to the UCLA Williams Institute, approximately 800 000 people have been subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy and camps. If you are outraged by this, write to your local state representative and sign petitions to ban conversion therapy. Most major health organizations in the land of the free also condemn this practice. The United Kingdom Parliament recently debated whether or not they should make conversion therapy illegal, and we are still waiting to hear from them on this subject. What is fascinating is that all significant physiological bodies in the UK have signed the Memorandum of Understanding to ban this practice. Still, the government isn’t doing anything about it even though Boris Johnson repeated support for the ban. While both these significant countries agree that conversion therapy is abhorrent and can leave long-lasting mental and physical harm, they still aren’t doing anything to solve this issue.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Comment below if you are as shocked as I am that Conversion therapy is still legal in these countries. 


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