'It serves solely to erase the LGBTQ+ community': Coalition calls for ban on conversion therapy

Cross-party all-island group Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition said the practice will continue to harm people until it is outlawed
'It serves solely to erase the LGBTQ+ community': Coalition calls for ban on conversion therapy

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield's Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill would prohibit conversion therapy, as a deceptive and harmful act or practice against a person's sexual orientation, gender identity and, or gender expression. Picture: Jed Niezgoda

A new cross-party all-island coalition has called for the practice of conversion therapy to be banned in Ireland.

The Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition (ACTC), which launched this week, has garnered huge support as it seeks to get a bill passed that would see the harmful practice outlawed.

Conversion therapy refers to any form of treatment proposed to change a person's sexual orientation or to suppress a person's gender identity.

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield's Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill would prohibit conversion therapy, as a deceptive and harmful act or practice against a person's sexual orientation, gender identity and, or gender expression.

Almost 20 senators co-signed the bill when it was first put forward but almost three years later the bill has only reached the third stage in the Seanad.

One of the key reasons the coalition was formed is to generate public awareness and support in the hopes that this will spur the Government into action.

They said the practice has harmed a lot of people in the past and will continue to do so until it is outlawed.

"A lot of people were unaware that it is still a legal practice both here and in the North," Eoin Fagan, a member of ACTC said.

It's unfortunate that it still is because it is a very, very cruel practice that really serves solely to erase the LGBTQ+ community.

Although Senator Warfield's bill has been slow to progress — there was a period of over two years between it moving from the second to the third stage — Mr Fagan said it was positive to see some small progress happening.

"I'm not an expert on how long these things take in the Seanad but I would argue that that is probably far too long. Hopefully, with the support and momentum from the public that will speed up the process."

That 20 members of the Seanad co-signed on the bill and remain in favour of it is a promising sign.

In Northern Ireland, Paula Bradshaw of the Alliance Party brought the matter to the Assembly last month with a public petition with over 24,000 signatures.

"Now that we have the public interest and support and awareness the pressure can be applied publicly to get this bill across the line."

Since launching online, the ACTC has received overwhelmingly positive reactions from the general public and politicians alike.

Fianna Fáil councillor John Sheridan said: "As an openly LGBT elected rep, delighted to support this initiative. It is sadly too common that people think conversion of LGBTQ+ people is possible; never mind those who believe 'conversion' is something either desired or needed in society."

Mr Fagan said it is very welcome to see people put aside party affiliations to come together and fight for a common goal.

The independent activist group includes members from Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, Fianna Fáil, People Before Profit, Labour, the Green Party, Aontú, the SDLP, and UUP.

Within hours of its launch, #BanConversionTherapy was trending on Twitter, something Mr Fagan said the group couldn't believe.

An encouraging start to the campaign, but gaining support online is just one part of the battle.

"It's fantastic to have all the support online and be trending on Twitter but we all know that nothing gets done by just being the latest trend on Twitter.

"Starting the conversation is the first key step to building public support. The onus is on us now to come up with some creative solutions to get more interest outside the realm of Twitter.

"Making sure that there is support both online and offline across all demographics is really going to be what gets this across the line."

Banning conversion therapy in Ireland is just one part of the campaign as the group hopes to lobby for support services in the future for those who have already suffered due to undergoing conversion therapy.

It is also hoped that there will be somewhere for people to reach out for help if they fear being brought out of the State to undergo the 'therapy'.

An important part of Mr Warfield's proposed bill is that it will make it an offence to bring people out of the country for conversion therapy.

"There are only laws against it in Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, and Germany and a couple of regional laws then in the US, Canada, Spain, and Australia. There are a lot of places in the world where it is legal still," said Mr Fagan.

For now though, the ACTC is focusing on the task at hand and the "intriguing challenge" of mobilising people while in the midst of a pandemic.

"The next step, we are probably going to be looking at getting as much information out there as we can to help educate people and help build support and awareness among the public," said Mr Fagan.

"As well as that, there will come a time when we will need people to get onto their local TDs, get on to people in the Seanad to help speed this up."

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence