UN Torture Committee to US: Why Is LGBT 'Conversion Therapy' Still Practiced?

Megan Brooks

November 12, 2014

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) has voiced concern over the "dangerous and discredited" practice of conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) youth in the United States, according to a news release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

"Today, for the first time, a United Nations committee recognized that conversion therapy is an issue of international human rights," Samantha Ames, co-chair of the #BornPerfect campaign, said in the release.

The #BornPerfect campaign is a national effort aimed at ending conversion therapy in the next 5 years by advocating the passing of laws across the country to protect LGBT youth, by fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and by raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these practices.

"We are incredibly grateful to the Committee Against Torture for raising up the voices of conversion therapy survivors and ensuring their suffering is finally being vindicated. Today was a historic day for LGBT people in the United States and around the world," Ames said.

On November 11 in Geneva, Switzerland, Ames and campaign co-chair Samuel Brinton testified before the CAT and the US State Department and asked them to address the practice with the US government.

Along with other signatories to the Convention Against Torture, the United States is reviewed by CAT for compliance with the convention, which prevents both torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Several CAT members asked US Department of State representatives why conversion therapy is still being practiced on LGBT youth after the practice was condemned by an array of major medical organizations and health and social welfare groups.

For example, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that "reparative" and conversion therapies are "at odds" with the scientific position of the APA, which has maintained, since 1973, that homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder.

"Shockingly, while 2 states have enacted laws that protect youth against this harmful practice, some unethical therapists continue to practice conversion therapy on children in 48 states," Ames said in a statement posted November 7 on the NCLR website. "The result, especially for vulnerable youth, is lifelong damage that can include depression, substance abuse, and even suicide."

"Hearing CAT bring this issue forward is a moment I will never forget," said Brinton, who testified about his experience as a conversion therapy survivor.

"Survivors generally feel that no one cares about the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment we suffered in conversion therapy. Somebody cares now. The Committee just used its voice to bring this issue forward, and we survivors are never going to be silenced again."

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