ASI position statement on “gay conversion therapy”

Australian Skeptics Inc. (ASI) commends Daniel Andrews and the Victorian government for the recently announced plan to ban “gay conversion therapy” across the state.

These church-based therapies are not based on scientific evidence, have been proven not to work, and are well known to cause physical and psychological harm.

Gay conversion therapy has been denounced by the Australian Psychological Society, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

These practices include aversion therapy (eg electrocution of genitals, administration of drugs to make people feel nauseous or vomit), participation in “exorcisms”, or prayer sessions to “pray the gay away”.

“Extreme pressure from family, friends, church leaders, and parents can coerce people into undergoing gay conversion therapy, threatening them with rejection from their church, family, and other social and financial supports,” said Trish Hann, Vice President of ASI.

Hann points out that those who do participate in gay conversion therapy ultimately find that their sexuality or gender remains unchanged, but they are left with significant physical and psychological trauma, and experience a high incidence of suicide.

“Church members enmeshed in these religious groups often face spiritual abuse and are unable to make informed choices. They are told that conversion therapy is their only option.”

Australian Skeptics Inc. finds it reprehensible that every state and territory of Australia still allows this unsubstantiated treatment, despite evidence of spiritual, physical, and psychological abuse.

These practices are decreasing around the world, with nationwide, regional and de facto bans in countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland and the US. However, they are still being performed behind closed doors in many religious communities.

ASI welcomes this measured decision by the Victorian Government and look forward to seeing similar legislation across the whole of Australia.

People struggling with issues surrounding their sexuality or gender identity are encouraged to speak with a General Practitioner, psychologist, or counselor, not affiliated with a religious organisation. Crisis helplines such as Beyond Blue or Lifeline are available to those in urgent need.

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