International News – June 19 – 25, 2020

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United Nations calls for global end to conversion therapy

The pseudo-scientific practice, which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, is currently banned in just five countries — the U.S. is not one of them. The United Nations report documents the global reach and impact of gay and transgender “conversion therapy,” calling for nations around the world to work to ban the scientifically discredited practice. Most important in the findings is the declaration that conversion therapy is a real risk to LGBT lives worldwide and that LGBTQ people are facing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all countries.

The U.N.’s Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz wrote the report. Established in 2016, the office’s mandate is to investigate discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people worldwide. The office is tasked with producing two annual reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

The report will be delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council on June 29, just after New York City’s annual Pride weekend, which will be celebrated virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report emphasized that minors are most often subjected to conversion therapy and are under duress because they have no legal rights to control their health care decisions. 

The office has “faced a lot of pushback from a number of states,” said Sahar Moazami, a U.N. program officer at OutRight Action International, told NBC news. “It’s been ‘controversial,’ as they say at the U.N.” Before the report’s publication, Moazami said the U.N. hadn’t “really spoken about conversion therapy,” describing the potential impact of the report as “huge.”

“We take it for granted that we can speak about these things openly, or even to have the language to express that ‘I experienced conversion therapy,'” Moazami said.

Detailed in the report are the data that half of conversion therapy survivors underwent the practice as children, with 80% aged 24 or younger.

In Mozambique, lesbians are subjected to exorcisms and so-called corrective rape; in Ghana, a consortium of Muslim and Christian groups practice conversion therapy in a teaching hospital; in Vietnam, LGBTQ people are sent to traditional healers; in Iran, gay people are sometimes encouraged to medically transition genders; and in the U.S., LGBTQ people are reportedly still subjected to aversion therapy, which can involve “injecting nausea-inducing or paralysis-inducing drugs while exposing the subject to erotic material on a large screen.”

The report states that all conversion therapy efforts are “premised on the belief that a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, including gender expression, can and should be changed or suppressed when they do not fall under what other actors in a given setting and time perceive as the desirable norm, in particular when the person is lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or gender diverse.”

The report found that conversion therapy is practiced in at least 68 countries, but estimates suggest it is practiced in every country. Survey respondents, referring to their home regions, rated conversion therapy as “very common” in Africa, and “somewhat common” in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The attempts to pathologize and erase the identity of individuals, negate their existence as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or gender diverse and provoke self-loathing have profound consequences on their physical and psychological integrity and well-being,” the report stated, with fully 9 in 10 conversion therapy survivors from 100 countries saying in one survey that they suffered lasting trauma from the experience.

The report also found that conversion therapy is, “in many cases, a lucrative business for providers around the world.” American providers were cited as charging up to $26,000 for a single round of conversion therapy.

Polish election: Andrzej Duda says LGBT ‘ideology’ worse than communism

Andrzej Duda has been president of Poland since 2015 and is seeking re-election June 28. Duda has argued that the promotion of LGBT rights needlessly sexualizes children and harms families. Now Duda claims that his parents’ generation struggled against communist ideology for 40 years, and “they didn’t fight for this so that a new ideology would appear that is even more destructive.”

Duda’s Law and Justice Party is viewed as anti-gay. The LGBT rights group ILGA-Europe says Poland is the worst-performing country in the E.U. in terms of LGBT rights. Duda’s party won a majority in parliament with a conservative, nationalist agenda strong on Catholic values, including support for traditional families and opposition to same-sex marriage, which is illegal in Poland. Duda’s latest assertion equating LGBT rights activism with communism is an inflammatory statement in Poland, where the anti-communist Solidarity movement led the struggle for democracy in the 1980s.

On June 10, Duda signed a “Family Charter” of election proposals, including pledges to prevent gay couples from marrying or adopting children and banning teaching about LGBT issues in schools. The European Commission has written to the heads of five Polish provinces with concerns about resolutions in which they declare themselves “free from LGBT ideology.” The E.U.’s executive has reminded them of their duty to guarantee nondiscrimination as a core E.U. value.

Opposition candidate Robert Biedron of the Left party is an LGBT rights activist. He called Duda’s Family Charter, “a radical document which divides Polish society, introducing standards reminiscent of the most brutal times of Polish and European history.”