Coronation Street actress Bhavna Limbachia: Muslim girls are being subjected to gay ‘cure’ therapy

An actress who plays a gay Muslim on Coronation Street has said that fans often tell her they were subjected to gay ‘cure’ therapy.

Bhavna Limbachia plays nurse Rana Nazir on the long-running ITV show, making history as the first female Muslim character to have a same-sex relationship in a UK soap.

Speaking to the Daily Record, the actress revealed that fans in the Muslim community often recall experiences of gay ‘cure’ therapy.

She said of taking the part: “I felt the need to go off and educate myself because I’m not gay, I didn’t really know much about the LGBT community. I wanted to make sure I got it right.

“I met up with some Pakistani girls who weren’t openly gay. It was quite shocking to see how frightened they were, even with just their body language.

“I had to meet them in secret places to talk about their feelings, what would happen if they did come out. A lot of the girls said their families would try to get the imam to ‘cure’ them.”

The show has featured a similar plot, where Rana’s parents plotted to kidnap her and send her to Pakistan after discovering her affair.

Gay ‘cure’ therapy is still prevalent among religious communities in the UK, although the government says it has no data on the issue.

A church in Manchester was exposed last year offering conversion therapy, while London-based evangelical gay cure organisation, the Core Issues Trust, claims to have dozens of clients a week.

Although the practice has been outlawed by the NHS and by most major medical and psychological bodies, there is no regulation in the UK preventing unlicensed religious therapists from carrying it out.

The UK government has resisted calls to bring in a legal ban, despite legislation moving forward elsewhere in Europe and in a string of US states on the issue.

The California Assembly recently greenlit a bill that would treat gay cure practises as consumer fraud.

Limbachia added that the storyline had provoked a strong response from LGBT fans across the world.

She said: “It’s not even just within the Asian community. I have been contacted by a lot of people from around the world, Canada, America, Australia, Pakistan.

“It has also given people in the LGBT community a voice. They are coming into their power, and it is humbling to know that we are a voice for them, and hopefully we are broadening people’s minds and getting rid of the taboo.

“Some people in Pakistan have tweeted me to say it is the only thing that is keeping the going.

“The Kate and Rana story has become a sort of coping mechanism.”

She added: “In London they are now some imams who are coming round to same-sex marriages and are supporting it. We still have a long way to go, but it is nice to have this platform to highlight it.”