World religious leaders unite to demand ban on gay conversion therapy

Almost 400 religious leaders from each of the world’s leading faiths have called for national governments to end laws that discriminate against same sex relationships while also demanding an end to LGBT+ conversion therapies.

Signatories — including anti-apartheid campaigner and former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, and Bishop of Liverpool — call for “an end to violence and criminalisation against LGBT+ people and for a global ban on conversion therapy”.

“We recognise that certain religious teachings have, throughout the ages, been misused to cause deep pain and offence to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex”, the open letter, which was organised by the Ozanne Foundation charity and signed by figures from 35 nations, adds.

Despite moves towards LGBT+ equality by governments in the 21st century, 69 of the UN’s 193 member states still outlaw gay sex, according to a report published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World) on Tuesday.

Meanwhile the only places to have introduced nation-wide bans on conversion therapy are Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Germany.

Boris Johnson has previously pledged to abolish the practice, which can include shock treatments and religious components including prayer and ‘exorcism’ style events – with the PM calling it “absolutely abhorrent”.

The statement from faith leaders comes ahead of the Foreign Office sponsored Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives .

Wendy Morton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for European Neighbourhood and the Americas, said the declaration was “an important step towards equality”.

“We fully support its call to end violence, discrimination and the ongoing criminalisation of same-sex conduct in 69 countries”, adding that conversion therapy was “an abhorrent practice and should be stopped”.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese, a prominent member of the Roman Catholic Church, said the statement marked “a small step towards countering (homophobia)”.

“But it’s a necessary step to remind the faith systems of the world and people of faith that they have an obligation to their fellow citizens who are also entitled to the full dignity of their humanity and their full equal human rights,” she added.

Imam Muhsin Hendricks, who founded one of the world’s few LGBT+ inclusive mosques in Cape Town, South Africa, said he believed the Muslim community “is ready for this conversation”

“I’m currently training with six imams from different parts of Africa and the openness to look at this issue is incredible” he added.

“I’m really amazed and excited because 10 years ago this kind of training with imams was not possible. So I do think the community is ready.”

Meanwhile Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, former senior rabbi to Reform Judaism said the statement served to acknowledge that “our religions … still have a lot that we are culpable for”.

“It would be lovely to say it has nothing to do with us, but our religious traditions have driven conversion therapy, particularly,” she added.

Additional reporting by the Thomson Reuters Foundation

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