Northern Ireland claims it doesn’t have time to ban conversion therapy because it’s too busy dealing with COVID-19

Northern Ireland conversion therapy

The Northern Ireland Department of Health has said it does not have time to ban conversion therapy because it is too busy dealing with COVID-19.

The harmful practice — where efforts are made to change a person’s sexual or gender identity — has been discredited by most major psychiatric bodies and has been banned in a number of countries.

But outlawing the practice is apparently not at the top of a list of priorities for department officials in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson for the department told Belfast Live that they are “not in a position” to introduce a ban on conversion therapy at this time.

“The DoH does not fund any organisations to carry out reparative or conversion therapy and statutory services within the Health and Social Care system do not prescribe reparative or conversion therapy,” a spokesperson said.

“Given the ongoing demands placed on the Department of Health by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not in a position to take forward the issue of a legislative ban on reparative or conversion therapy by private operators.”

Alliance councillor Éoin Tennyson told the news outlet that conversion therapy is “very much a reality” in Northern Ireland and said a friend of his had been put through the process.

He said the practice should be banned immediately – but progress looks set to be slow.

The UK government promised to ban conversion therapy two years ago.

It is now more than two years since the UK committed to banning conversion therapy – but the traumatising practice is still legal.

Theresa May’s Conservative government promised to “eradicate” the pseudoscientific practice on July 3, 2018.

Last month, equalities minister Liz Truss said she would “shortly be bringing forward plans” to end the horrific practice, and said she was “closely following” conversion therapy bans in countries like Albania and Germany.

And yet, conversion therapy is still a reality in the UK.

Conversion therapy is as a form of torture.

Earlier this month, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN’s independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said conversion therapy should be seen as a form of torture.

A report by Madrigal-Borloz, presented to the UN Human Rights Council, took in more than 130 submissions from groups and individuals — including people who had been subject to “beatings, rape, electrocution, forced medication, isolation and confinement, forced nudity, verbal offence and humiliation”.

Madrigal-Borloz has called for the practice to be outlawed globally.

Meanwhile, a UK survey conducted last year found that one in five conversion therapy survivors later attempted suicide, while two in five said they had experienced suicidal thoughts.

Less than a third said they had gone on to lead “a happy and fulfilled life”.