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Hadiya (formerly Akhila Ashokan) is a 24 year old homeopathic medical student from Vaikom, Kerala.

In early 2016 she was reported missing by her father, who initially filed a police case and then a haebus corpus petition in the Kerala High Court to trace her; Hadiya has described the circumstances of her leaving as[2] her father forbidding her from practicing Islam. She left her home for college on January 6, dressed in a Hijab.[2] She was staying with A.S. Zainaba, president of Popular Front of India (PFI)'s women's wing National Women's Front (NWF).[3][2][4][5] She had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man Shafin Jehan.[2] Shafin Jehan is an active member of PFI affiliated Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). Her family alleged she was brainwashed and her marriage was forced, but Hadiya says she did of her own volition.[6][7]

In May 2017, Hadiya's marriage was annulled by the High Court of Kerala on the grounds of a report submitted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to the Supreme Court of India (SC), saying that Hadiya was a victim of indoctrination and psychological kidnapping, and that their claims of their marriage being arranged through a matrimony website were "bogus".[8] The High Court of Kerala then handed over Hadiya's custody to her father, Ashokan, arguing that “As per Indian tradition, the custody of an unmarried daughter is with the parents, until she is properly married.”[9]

Shafin Jahan appealed the Kerala High Court order, and moved to the Supreme Court. In November 2017, the Supreme Court of India directed Hadiya to resume her internship, and that she was free to meet whomever she wanted. [10][11] In March 2018, the Supreme court restored Hadiya's marriage, 10 months after the Kerala High Court annulled it[12].

This case is often reported in media with headline containing the term love jihad.[7][13][11][14][15]


Key organisations and people involved and mentioned in Hadiya's High Court and Supreme Court cases are as follows.

  • People
    • Hadiya (Akhila Ashokan): A student of homeopathy. Hadiya says she converted to Islam of her own will, the married Shafin Jahan of her own will, and wants to return to her husband.[16] Hadiya claims she was tortured by Siva Sakthi Yoga Centre workers, who tried to convert her back to Hinduism,[17] who were directed to her by her father.[2] Claims she has been illegally incarcerated by her father for 11 months.[18]
    • A.S. Zainaba: Hadiya chose to live with Zainaba after she left her home. Zainaba is a member of PFI, and SDFI; and the President of PFI's women's wing National Women's Front.
    • Shafin Jehan: He married Hadiya.[4][2] Their marriage was annulled by the Kerala High Court.[13] He filed the case in Supreme Court to appeal the decision.[13] He is member of SDPI and PFI.[4] NIA claims Shafin has 4 criminal cases lodged against him,[19] but the SP Kerala Police says there's only one case related to campus politics, which had to do with him being admin of a whatsapp group.[20][21]
    • Asokan K. M.: Akhila's father, an atheist and ex-serviceman, who went to the High Court claiming that his brainwashed daughter Hadiya's marriage was based on forced conversion and her safety was at risk.[4] His daughter, Hadiya, as accused Ashokan of holding her in "unlawful custody" for 11 months, from forbidding her from practicing the faith of her choice, and who is trying to keep her from the man she chose as her husband.[22]
  • Hindu Organizations
    • Siva Sakthi Yoga Centre: a Hindu centre that visited Hadiya upon Ashokan's request, and whom Hadiya alleges "tortured" her and tried to re-convert her.[23] There have been numerous other allegations of torture at the hands of Siva Sakthi Yoga Centre, where Hindu women are forced by their families to go and reconvert to Hinduism.[24][25][26][27][28]
  • Islamic organisation
  • Government organisations
    • High Court of Kerala (HCK): Annulled Hadiya's marriage held under suspicious circumstances.[13]
    • Supreme Court of India (SC): Currently hearing the ongoing case filed by Safin Jehan to gain access to Hadiya.
    • National Investigation AgencyNIA: India's premier national agency that investigates terrorism cases, was asked by the SC to investigate if there has been large scale systematic forced conversions to Islam with the view to carry out terrorist activities. NIA told SC that Hadiya is "a victim of indoctrination and psychological kidnapping", claims that their marriage was arranged through a matrimony website were totally false, and her handlers who arranged her marriage were only looking for active worker of radical outfit PFI as her groom.[13] NIA had recommended to SC and government to ban PFI as it runs terror camps and makes bomb, with plans to carry out terror attacks against India with the help of Islamic state Al-Hindi.[4]

Religious conversion[edit]

Hadiya, who grew up as Akhila Ashokan, belonged to a family from Vaikom, Kottayam. She is the only child of an atheistex-serviceman, K.M. Ashokan and his wife Ponnamma. She lived with her parents and studied at local schools until 12th standard, which she passed at the second attempt.[29] While pursuing her bachelor's degree at Sivaraj Homeopathic Medical College at Salem, she converted to Islamic faith.She became interested in Islam after seeing two of her collegemates, Faseena and Jaseela.[30][2][11] On 6 January 2016 Akhila went missing from a house in Selam, where she was staying with her friends, Faseena and Jaseena, and parents filed the police complaint against the friends and their father Aboobacker[2] Hadiya insisted in the High Court that it was a personal choice, her family argued that she is the victim of love jihad, and court annulled her marriage with the observation that she was a "weak and vulnerable girl capable of being exploited".[29] Court also said in its order that "Shefin Jahan is one such person who has been assigned to play the role of going through a sham of a marriage with Ms. Akhila, with the object of transporting her out of India."[2] She told the court that she was "impressed" by her friends' "timely prayers and good character."[2] She told the court she had been practicing Islam for 3 years without formally announcing the change of faith, but she started the legal procedure for conversion only by September 2015.[2][29] Her parents learnt about the conversion when she refused to participate in her grandfather's funeral ritual at her home.[30][29] She subsequently returned to college wearing a headscarf.[29]

In January 2016, Akhila left her home and joined a course on Islam at "Therbiathul Islam Sabha", a Kozhikode Islamic study centre, as an 'external candidate' after filling an affidavit that she converted on her on accord. She planned to stay at her roommates' residence in Kerala during the study period. However, her roommates' father Aboobacker refused to let her continue at his residence, following which she approached Satya Sarani, an educational institution and conversion centre at Manjeri, Malappuram. While at Satya Sarani, she stayed with A.S. Zainaba, president of NWF and member of its parent radical Islamist organisation PFI as well as member of PFI's other front SDPI.[3][2][4] NWF is women's wing of PFI.[31] PFI, having links with banned Islamist terrorist organisation group SIMI[32][33][34] and Pakistan's ISI,[35][5] is involved with Islamic terrorist acts and groups.[36][37][33][38]

Meanwhile, Hadiya's father had filed a missing person's police case,[3] and after being unable to trace her, he filed the first case in the high court.[2][3][14][15]

High Court lawsuit[edit]

In February 2016, Akhila's father Ashokan filed a missing person's case at the local police station.[3] Following the case, Aboobacker was arrested by the police.[3] Despite the police case, Akhila could not be traced,[2] meanwhile Akhila was in contact with the "Sathya Sarani" organisation which placed Zainaba in charge of Akila.[3] During this period, she changed her name to Hadiya.[3] At the High Court of Kerala, Hadiya's father filed a habeas corpus petition alleging that Satya Sarani has involved in "forced and illegal" religious conversions. Hadiya testified that she was staying with Zainaba out of her free will. The court dismissed Ashokan's petition and let Hadiya continue learning Islam and live with Zainaba, observing that she was not in illegal confinement.[3]

Following this, Ashokan filed a second petition in August 2016, alleging that Hadiya is likely to be transported out of the country after getting her married off to a Muslim man. The High court passed an interim order to keep Hadiya in surveillance to ensure that she was not taken outside of India. While she was in surveillance, the police found that she has moved from Zainaba's house to an undisclosed location.[2] Though Hadiya denied the plan to travel abroad, the court directed her to stay at a women's hostel in Kochi.[3] In September, the court let her live with Zainaba again, when she testified that she does not possess a passport, and pleaded that she was being lodged in the hostel "for no fault of hers". On December 19, the court directed Hadiya to move to the college hostel in Salem to complete her medical studies. Her father, Ashokan, was asked to produce her certificates on December 21 so that she could resume her studies.[2]


On 21 December 2016, Akhila appeared before the high court accompanied by "a stranger."[2] This was nearly a year after she had left home and formally converted, she appeared in court with a man named Shafin Jahan, who she said she had married.[30] Shafin Jehan is an active member of SDPI[4] and allegedly also a member of the radical Islamic outfit PFI,[39] with 4 criminal cases against him.[4] SDPI is political front of Islamic fundamentalist organisation PFI.[40][41][42][43][44][45] Hadiya married Shafin Jehan on 19 December 2016, the same day she had appeared before the court.[4][39] The marriage was solemnized under Muslim law. Hadiya's lawyer later informed that she had signed up on a Muslim matrimony website "", and that Shafin's proposal came through the site.[2][46] In May 2017, the High Court annulled Hadiya's marriage with Shefin, and sent her to her parent's house in Vaikom.[30]

Although the court order was to only provide her police protection, she was not permitted by her father to leave her home or meet anyone,[30] an allegations denied by her father as she was fully surrounded by police inside and outside the house.[11] According to Asokan, Hadiya refused to leave the house and go outside even though she was allowed to.[47] Chairperson of State Women's commission,[48] and several activists were prevented from meeting Hadiya, among those a trespassing case was registered against seven people.[49] However, the chairperson of National Commission for Women visited her and noted that she was "happy and smiling", "her health and security are good", and that Hadiya did not report any atrocities or harm done to her.[14][39]

At Supreme Court[edit]

Her husband, Shafin Jehan approached the Supreme Court for challenging the High Court order. At Supreme Court, Hadiya expressed her will to continue practicing Islam, live with her husband and complete her internship. She told that she was unlawfully kept under custody at her parents' home and demanded freedom.[15]NIA, which investigates terror cases, was asked by the court to investigate if there are organised groups attempting to recruit Hindu women as terrorists by getting Muslim men to convert and marry them, had submitted to court that Hadiya's is an example of "psychological kidnapping", there is evidence of nearly 90 "similar cases" of indoctrination and radicalisation in Kerala, that that the court should not go by her statement.[14][39] Evidence adduced by the NIA showed that claims that Hadiya met Safin Jehan through matrimony website '' was "totally false and entirely bogus".[13] NIA further alleged that the only condition of the handlers who arranged their marriage was that the groom should be an active worker of the PFI, a radical outfit.[13] The judges were livid with what had happened and questioned why the court had been kept in the dark regarding the marriage.[2] The court raised several doubts about the hurried nature of the marriage, and doubted the manner in which the wedding ceremony was conducted.[2]

The Supreme Court allowed her to return to Salem and pursue her internship. Further hearing in this case, including the decision on the annulment of marriage will be considered by the court in January 2018.[50] Hadiya responded that she was happy with the Supreme Court's decision allowing her to continue her education.[51]

On 23rd January, 2018, the Supreme court continued hearing the Hadiya Marriage case.When the Counsel for Mr Ashokan (Hadiya’s father) argued that the circumstances leading to the marriage must be investigated, the court emphasised that Hadiya’s marital status could not be looked into by the Court. Being a 24-year old adult, Hadiya had the power to make her own decisions, and the Court could not compel her to go to her father or husband against her will. Neither could the Court look into the character of the person Hadiya had married. The bench reiterated that investigating the marriage in such a manner would set a bad precedent in law. Hadiya has now been made a party to the proceedings as per the request of Mr Kapil Sibal. She can file her own response. This is a positive development as earlier Supreme Court was criticised for not adding Hadiya as a party and denying an adult woman agency in an important matter like marriage choice. The matter has been listed to be next heard on 22nd February 2018.[52]

On 8th March 2018,Hadiya's marriage was restored by the Supreme Court.

NIA Investigation[edit]

According to the ongoing probe by the NIA, Shafin Jahan is accused of having alleged connections with two ISIS members Manseed and P Safvan, accused in the Omar-al-Hindi case, through Facebook group Popular Front of India (PFI) which allegedly deals with activities of SDPI. Muneer, Shafin Jahan's friend, brought Hadiya and him together.

The probe by the investigation agency has also revealed certain discrepancies in what the couple had earlier claimed about meeting on the matrimonial site. The Supreme Court is now hearing Shafin Jahan's appeal against the annulment. According to sources, Shafin had registered his name on the website on September 19, 2015, while Sainaba (the lady who Hadiya stayed with, after leaving her parent's home) registered the name of Hadiya and her own daughter, Fathima Thesni, on April 17, 2016. Hadiya viewed 49 profiles between April 17 and April 23, but not of Shafin. In the same way, Jahan viewed 67 profiles, but not Hadiya's. As per NIA's report in the "love jihad" case, the marriage proposal of Shafin Jahan had come through Muneer during August 2016.[53]


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  3. ^ abcdefghijklJacob, George (30 October 2017). "How Akhila became Hadiya". The Hindu. The Hindu. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  4. ^ abcdefghijkl"Islamist Popular Front Of India 'Involved In Terror Acts', NIA Submits Report To Govt Recommending Ban". Outlook. 12 September 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
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  12. ^"Hadiya's marriage valid, can live with husband: SC - Times of India ►". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 March 2018. 
  13. ^ abcdefg"Hadiya case: Critical findings demolish petitioner's case, says NIA in court". Indian Express. 28 November 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  14. ^ abcdKoshy, Sneha Mary. "Hadiya 'Smiling And Safe', Says Women's Panel After Visiting Kerala Woman In 'Love Jihad' Case". NDTV. NDTV. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
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Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual interventions. There is virtually no reliable evidence that sexuality can be controlled or changed and medical bodies warn that conversion therapy practices are ineffective and potentially seriously harmful. Nevertheless, advocates and proponents do provide anecdotal reports of so-called "ex-gays" who claim some degree of success in becoming heterosexual.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Medical, scientific, and government organizations in the United States and United Kingdom have expressed concern over conversion therapy and consider it potentially harmful.[8][9][10][11][12][13] Various legal jurisdictions in Asia, Europe, and the Americas have passed laws against conversion therapy.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) opposes psychiatric treatment "based upon the assumption that homosexualityper se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation"[8] and describes attempts to change sexual orientation by practitioners as unethical.[6] It also states that debates over the integration of gay and lesbian people have obscured science "by calling into question the motives and even the character of individuals on both sides of the issue"[8] and that the advancement of conversion therapy may cause social harm by disseminating unscientific views about sexual orientation.[9]United States Surgeon GeneralDavid Satcher in 2001 issued a report stating that "there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed".[14]

The highest-profile advocates of conversion therapy today tend to be fundamentalist Christian groups and other organizations which use a religious justification for the therapy rather than speaking of homosexuality as "a disease".[4] The main organization advocating secular forms of conversion therapy is the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which often partners with religious groups.[4]

Techniques used in conversion therapy prior to 1981 in the United States and Western Europe included ice-pick lobotomies;[3][4][15][16][17][18] chemical castration with hormonal treatment;[19]aversive treatments, such as "the application of electric shock to the hands and/or genitals"; "nausea-inducing drugs ... administered simultaneously with the presentation of homoerotic stimuli"; and masturbatory reconditioning. More recent clinical techniques used in the United States have been limited to counseling, visualization, social skills training, psychoanalytic therapy, and spiritual interventions such as "prayer and group support and pressure",[20] though there are some reports of aversive treatments through unlicensed practice as late as the 1990s.[21][22] The term reparative therapy has been used as a synonym for conversion therapy in general,[8] but it has been argued that strictly speaking it refers to a specific kind of therapy associated with the psychologists Elizabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi.[23]


The history of conversion therapy can be divided broadly into three periods: an early Freudian period; a period of mainstream approval of conversion therapy, when the mental health establishment became the "primary superintendent" of sexuality; and a post-Stonewall period where the mainstream medical profession disavowed conversion therapy.[4]

During the earliest parts of psychoanalytic history, analysts granted that homosexuality was non-pathological in certain cases, and the ethical question of whether it ought to be changed was discussed. By the 1920s analysts assumed that homosexuality was pathological and that attempts to treat it were appropriate, although psychoanalytic opinion about changing homosexuality was largely pessimistic. Those forms of homosexuality that were considered perversions were usually held to be uncurable. Analysts' tolerant statements about homosexuality arose from recognition of the difficulty of achieving change. Beginning in the 1930s and continuing for roughly twenty years, major changes occurred in how analysts viewed homosexuality, which involved a shift in the rhetoric of analysts, some of whom felt free to ridicule and abuse their gay patients.[24]


Sigmund Freud[edit]

Main article: Sigmund Freud's views on homosexuality

Sigmund Freud was a physician and the founder of psychoanalysis. Freud stated that homosexuality could sometimes be removed through hypnotic suggestion,[25] and was influenced by Eugen Steinach, a Viennese endocrinologist who transplanted testicles from straight men into gay men in attempts to change their sexual orientation,[26] stating that his research had "thrown a strong light on the organic determinants of homo-eroticism".[27] Freud cautioned that Steinach's operations would not necessarily make possible a therapy that could be generally applied, arguing that such transplant procedures would be effective in changing homosexuality in men only in cases in which it was strongly associated with physical characteristics typical of women, and that probably no similar therapy could be applied to lesbianism.[28][29] Steinach's method was doomed to failure because the immune system rejects transplanted glands, and was eventually exposed as ineffective and often harmful.[30]

Freud's main discussion of female homosexuality was the 1920 paper "The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman", which described his analysis of a young woman who had entered therapy because her parents were concerned that she was a lesbian. Her father wanted this condition changed. In Freud's view, the prognosis was unfavourable because of the circumstances under which she entered therapy, and because homosexuality was not an illness or neurotic conflict. Freud wrote that changing homosexuality was difficult and possible only under unusually favourable conditions, observing that "in general to undertake to convert a fully developed homosexual into a heterosexual does not offer much more prospect of success than the reverse".[31] Success meant making heterosexual feeling possible, not eliminating homosexual feelings.[32]

Gay people could seldom be convinced that heterosexual sex would provide them with the same pleasure they derived from homosexual sex. Patients often wanted to become heterosexual for reasons Freud considered superficial, including fear of social disapproval, an insufficient motive for change. Some might have no real desire to become heterosexual, seeking treatment only to convince themselves that they had done everything possible to change, leaving them free to return to homosexuality after the failure they expected.[33][34][35]

In 1935, a mother asked Freud to treat her son. Freud replied in a letter that later became famous:[36]

I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. ... it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. ... By asking me if I can help [your son], you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies, which are present in every homosexual; in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.[37]

Sándor Ferenczi[edit]

Sándor Ferenczi was an influential psychoanalyst. Ferenczi hoped to cure some kinds of homosexuality completely, but was content in practice with reducing what he considered gay men's hostility to women, along with the urgency of their homosexual desires, and with helping them to become attracted to and potent with women. In his view, a gay man who was confused about his sexual identity and felt himself to be "a woman with the wish to be loved by a man" was not a promising candidate for cure. Ferenczi believed that complete cures of homosexuality might become possible in the future when psychoanalytic technique had been improved. Melanie Klein was a pupil of Ferenczi.[24][38][39]

Anna Freud[edit]

Daughter of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud became an influential psychoanalytic theorist in the UK.[40]

Anna Freud reported the successful treatment of homosexuals as neurotics in a series of unpublished lectures. In 1949 she published "Some Clinical Remarks Concerning the Treatment of Cases of Male Homosexuality" in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. In her view, it was important to pay attention to the interaction of passive and active homosexual fantasies and strivings, the original interplay of which prevented adequate identification with the father. The patient should be told that his choice of a passive partner allows him to enjoy a passive or receptive mode, while his choice of an active partner allows him to recapture his lost masculinity. She claimed that these interpretations would reactivate repressed castration anxieties, and childhood narcissistic grandiosity and its complementary fear of dissolving into nothing during heterosexual intercourse would come with the renewal of heterosexual potency.[24]

Anna Freud in 1951 published "Clinical Observations on the Treatment of Male Homosexuality" in The Psychoanalytic Quarterly and "Homosexuality" in the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) Bulletin. In these articles, she insisted on the attainment of full object-love of the opposite sex as a requirement for cure of homosexuality. In 1951 she gave a lecture about treatment of homosexuality which was criticised by Edmund Bergler, who emphasised the oral fears of patients and minimized the importance of the phallic castration fears she had discussed.[24]

Anna Freud recommended in 1956 to a journalist who was preparing an article about psychoanalysis for The Observer of London that she not quote Freud's letter to the American mother, on the grounds that "nowadays we can cure many more homosexuals than was thought possible in the beginning. The other reason is that readers may take this as a confirmation that all analysis can do is to convince patients that their defects or 'immoralities' do not matter and that they should be happy with them. That would be unfortunate."[40]

Melanie Klein[edit]

Melanie Klein's seminal book The Psycho-Analysis of Children, based on lectures given to the British Psychoanalytical Society in the 1920s, was published in 1932. Klein claimed that entry into the Oedipus Complex is based on mastery of primitive anxiety from the oral and anal stages. If these tasks are not performed properly, developments in the Oedipal stage will be unstable. Complete analysis of patients with such unstable developments would require uncovering these early concerns. The analysis of homosexuality required dealing with paranoid trends based on the oral stage. The Psycho-Analysis of Children ends with the analysis of Mr. B., a gay man. Klein claimed that he illustrated pathologies that enter into all forms of homosexuality: a gay man idealizes "the good penis" of his partner to allay the fear of attack he feels due to having projected his paranoid hatred onto the imagined "bad penis" of his mother as an infant. She stated that Mr. B.'s homosexual behaviour diminished after he overcame his need to adore the "good penis" of an idealized man. This was made possible by his recovering his belief in the good mother and his ability to sexually gratify her with his good penis and plentiful semen.[24]

Vote by European parliament in March 2018[edit]

In March 2018, the European parliament voted in a historic vote by 435 to 109 members of parliament to stop conversion therapies in member states of the European Union.[41][42][43]

United States[edit]

20th century[edit]

Psychoanalysis started to receive recognition in the United States in 1909, when Sigmund Freud delivered a series of lectures at Clark University in Massachusetts at the invitation of G. Stanley Hall.[44] In 1913, Abraham Brill wrote "The Conception of Homosexuality", which he published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and read before the American Medical Association's annual meeting. Brill criticised physical treatments for homosexuality such as bladder washing, rectal massage, and castration, along with hypnosis, but referred approvingly to Freud and Sadger's use of psychoanalysis, calling its results "very gratifying".[45] Since Brill understood curing homosexuality as restoring heterosexual potency, he claimed that he had cured his patients in several cases, even though many remained homosexual.[24][46]

Wilhelm Stekel, an Austrian, published his views on treatment of homosexuality, which he considered a disease, in the American Psychoanalytic Review in 1930. Stekel believed that "success was fairly certain" in changing homosexuality through psychoanalysis provided that it was performed correctly and the patient wanted to be treated. In 1932, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly published a translation of Helene Deutsch's paper "On Female Homosexuality". Deutsch reported her analysis of a lesbian, who did not become heterosexual as a result of treatment, but who managed to achieve a "positive libidinal relationship" with another woman. Deutsch indicated that she would have considered heterosexuality a better outcome.[46]

Edmund Bergler was the most important psychoanalytic theorist of homosexuality in the 1950s.[24] He was vociferous in his opposition to Alfred Kinsey. Kinsey's work, and its reception, led Bergler to develop his own theories for treatment, which were essentially to "blame the victim", in the evaluation of Jennifer Terry, associate professor of Woman's Studies.[47] Bergler claimed that if gay people wanted to change, and the right therapeutic approach was taken, then they could be cured in 90% of cases.[48] Bergler used confrontational therapy in which gay people were punished in order to make them aware of their masochism. Bergler openly violated professional ethics to achieve this, breaking patient confidentiality in discussing the cases of patients with other patients, bullying them, calling them liars and telling them they were worthless.[47] He insisted that gay people could be cured. Bergler confronted Kinsey because Kinsey thwarted the possibility of cure by presenting homosexuality as an acceptable way of life, which was the basis of the gay rights activism of the time.[47] Bergler popularised his views in the United States in the 1950s using magazine articles and books aimed at non-specialists.[47][49]

In 1951, the mother who wrote to Freud asking him to treat her son sent Freud's response to the American Journal of Psychiatry, in which it was published.[24] The 1952 first edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I) classified homosexuality as a mental disorder.[50]

During the three decades between Freud's death in 1939 and the Stonewall riots in 1969, conversion therapy received approval from most of the psychiatric establishment in the United States.[51] In 1962, Irving Bieberet al. published Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals, in which they concluded that "although this change may be more easily accomplished by some than by others, in our judgment a heterosexual shift is a possibility for all homosexuals who are strongly motivated to change".[52]

There was a riot in 1969 at the Stonewall Bar in New York after a police raid. The Stonewall riot acquired symbolic significance for the gay rights movement and came to be seen as the opening of a new phase in the struggle for gay liberation. Following these events, conversion therapy came under increasing attack. Activism against conversion therapy increasingly focused on the DSM's designation of homosexuality as a psychopathology.[50] In 1973, after years of criticism from gay activists and bitter dispute among psychiatrists, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Supporters of the change used evidence from researchers such as Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker. Psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, a member of the APA's Committee on Nomenclature, played an important role in the events that led to this decision. Critics argued that it was a result of pressure from gay activists, and demanded a referendum among voting members of the Association. The referendum was held in 1974 and the APA's decision was upheld by a 58% majority.[50]

The APA removed ego-dystonic homosexuality from the DSM-III-R in 1987 and opposes the diagnosis of either homosexuality or ego-dystonic homosexuality as any type of disorder.[53]

Joseph Nicolosi had a significant role in the development of conversion therapy as early as the 1990s, publishing his first book Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality in 1991.[54][55] In 1992, Nicolosi, with Charles Socarides and Benjamin Kaufman, founded the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization that opposes the mainstream medical view of homosexuality and aims to "make effective psychological therapy available to all homosexual men and women who seek change".[56]

In 1998, Christian right groups including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association spent $600,000 on advertising promoting conversion therapy.[57]John Paulk and his then wife Anne featured in full-page newspaper spreads.[58]

21st century[edit]

United States Surgeon GeneralDavid Satcher in 2001 issued a report stating that "there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed".[14] The same year, a study by Robert Spitzer concluded that some highly motivated individuals whose orientation is predominantly homosexual can become predominantly heterosexual with some form of reparative therapy.[59] Spitzer based his findings on structured interviews with 200 self-selected individuals (143 males, 57 females). He told The Washington Post that the study "shows some people can change from gay to straight, and we ought to acknowledge that".[60] Spitzer's study caused controversy and attracted media attention.[1] Spitzer recanted his study in 2012,[61] and apologized to the gay community for making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy,[62] calling it his only professional regret.[63]

The American Psychoanalytic Association spoke against NARTH in 2004, stating "that organization does not adhere to our policy of nondiscrimination and ... their activities are demeaning to our members who are gay and lesbian".[64] The same year, a survey of members of the American Psychological Association rated reparative therapy as "certainly discredited", though the authors warn that the results should be interpreted carefully as an initial step, not a final word.[65]

The American Psychological Association in 2007 convened a task force to evaluate its policies regarding reparative therapy.[66]

In 2008, the organizers of an APA panel on the relationship between religion and homosexuality canceled the event after gay activists objected that "conversion therapists and their supporters on the religious right use these appearances as a public relations event to try and legitimize what they do".[67][68]

In 2009, American Psychological Association stated that it "encourages mental health professionals to avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others' sexual orientation and concludes that the benefits reported by participants in sexual orientation change efforts can be gained through approaches that do not attempt to change sexual orientation".[69]

The ethics guidelines of major mental health organizations in the United States vary from cautionary statements to recommendations that ethical practitioners refrain from practicing conversion therapy (American Psychiatric Association) or from referring patients to those who do (American Counseling Association).[8][70] In a letter dated February 23, 2011 to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Attorney General of the United States stated "while sexual orientation carries no visible badge, a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable".[71]

Gay rights groups and groups concerned with mental health fear reparative therapy can make depression or even suicide more likely. President Barack Obama expressed opposition to the practice in 2015.[72]

Theories and techniques[edit]

Behavioral modification[edit]

Main article: Behavior modification

Before the American Psychological Association's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM, practitioners of conversion therapy employed aversive conditioning techniques, involving electric shock and nausea-inducing drugs during presentation of same-sex erotic images. Cessation of the aversive stimuli was typically accompanied by the presentation of opposite-sex erotic images, with the objective of strengthening heterosexual feelings. In "Aversion therapy for sexual deviation: a critical review", published in 1966, M. P. Feldman claimed a 58% cure rate, but Douglas Haldeman is skeptical that such stressful methods permit feelings of sexual responsiveness, and notes that Feldman defined success as suppression of homosexuality and increased capacity for heterosexual behavior.[73]

Another method used was the covert sensitization method, which involves instructing patients to imagine vomiting or receiving electric shocks, writing that only single case studies have been conducted, and that their results cannot be generalized. Haldeman writes that behavioral conditioning studies tend to decrease homosexual feelings, but do not increase heterosexual feelings, citing Rangaswami's "Difficulties in arousing and increasing heterosexual responsiveness in a homosexual: A case report", published in 1982, as typical in this respect.[74]

Haldeman concludes that such methods can be called torture, besides being ineffective. He writes that "Individuals undergoing such treatments do not emerge heterosexually inclined; rather they become shamed, conflicted, and fearful about their homosexual feelings."[75]

Ex-gay ministry[edit]

Main article: Ex-gay

Some sources describe ex-gay ministries as a form of conversion therapy, while others state that ex-gay organizations and conversion therapy are distinct methods of attempting to convert gay people to heterosexuality.[1][9][76][77] Ex-gay ministries have also been called transformational ministries.[9] Some state that they do not conduct clinical treatment of any kind.[78]Exodus International once believed reparative therapy could be a beneficial tool.[78] The umbrella organization in the United States ceased activities in June 2013, and the three member board issued a statement which repudiated its aims and apologized for the harm their pursuit has caused to LGBT people.[79] The ministries that had been members formed a new organization Restored Hope Network and continue to operate as before with a renewed emphases on spiritual conversion and therapy.[citation needed]


Main article: Psychoanalysis

Haldeman writes that psychoanalytic treatment of homosexuality is exemplified by the work of Irving Bieber et al. in Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals. They advocated long-term therapy aimed at resolving the unconscious childhood conflicts that they considered responsible for homosexuality. Haldeman notes that Bieber's methodology has been criticized because it relied upon a clinical sample, the description of the outcomes was based upon subjective therapist impression, and follow-up data were poorly presented. Bieber reported a 27% success rate from long-term therapy, but only 18% of the patients in whom Bieber considered the treatment successful had been exclusively homosexual to begin with, while 50% had been bisexual. In Haldeman's view, this makes even Bieber's unimpressive claims of success misleading.[80]

Haldeman discusses other psychoanalytic studies of attempts to change homosexuality. Curran and Parr's "Homosexuality: An analysis of 100 male cases", published in 1957, reported no significant increase in heterosexual behavior. Mayerson and Lief's "Psychotherapy of homosexuals: A follow-up study of nineteen cases", published in 1965, reported that half of its 19 subjects were exclusively heterosexual in behavior four and a half years after treatment, but its outcomes were based on patient self-report and had no external validation. In Haldeman's view, those participants in the study who reported change were bisexual at the outset, and its authors wrongly interpreted capacity for heterosexual sex as change of sexual orientation.[81]

Reparative therapy[edit]

The term "reparative therapy" has been used as a synonym for conversion therapy generally, but according to Jack Drescher it properly refers to a specific kind of therapy associated with the psychologists Elizabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi.[23] The term reparative refers to Nicolosi's postulate that same-sex attraction is a person's rational and unconscious attempt to "self-repair" feelings of inferiority.[82][83][84]

Most mental health professionals and the American Psychological Association consider reparative therapy discredited, but it is still practiced by some.[4] In 2014 the Republican Party of Texas endorsed "counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment" in their party platform.[85]Exodus International regarded reparative therapy as a useful tool to eliminate "unwanted same-sex attraction"[78] but ceased activities in June 2013 and issued a statement repudiating its aims and apologizing for the harm the organization had caused to LGBT people.[79] Psychoanalysts critical of Nicolosi's theories have offered gay-affirmative approaches as an alternative to reparative therapy.[23][86]

Sex therapy[edit]

Main article: Masters and Johnson

Haldeman has described William Masters' and Virginia Johnson's work on sexual orientation change as a form of conversion therapy.[87]

In Homosexuality in Perspective, published in 1979, Masters and Johnson viewed homosexuality as the result of blocks that prevented the learning that facilitated heterosexual responsiveness, and described a study of 54 gay men who were dissatisfied with their sexual orientation. The original study did not describe the treatment methodology used, but this was published five years later. John C. Gonsiorek criticized their study on several grounds in 1981, pointing out that while Masters and Johnson stated that their patients were screened for major psychopathology or severe neurosis, they did not explain how this screening was performed, or how the motivation of the patients to change was assessed. Nineteen of their subjects were described as uncooperative during therapy and refused to participate in a follow-up assessment, but all of them were assumed without justification to have successfully changed.[88]

Haldeman writes that Masters and Johnson's study was founded upon heterosexist bias, and that it would be tremendously difficult to replicate. In his view, the distinction Masters and Johnson made between "conversion" (helping gay men with no previous heterosexual experience to learn heterosexual sex) and "reversion" (directing men with some previous heterosexual experience back to heterosexuality) was not well founded. Many of the subjects Masters and Johnson labelled homosexual may not have been homosexual, since, of their participants, only 17% identified themselves as exclusively homosexual, while 83% were in the predominantly heterosexual to bisexual range. Haldeman observed that since 30% of the sample was lost to the follow-up, it is possible that the outcome sample did not include any people attracted mainly or exclusively to the same sex. Haldeman concludes that it is likely that, rather than converting or reverting gay people to heterosexuality, Masters and Johnson only strengthened heterosexual responsiveness in people who were already bisexual.[89]


Main article: Lobotomy

In the 1940s and 1950s, neurologist Walter Freeman popularized the ice-pick lobotomy to treat homosexuality. He personally performed as many as 3,439[90] lobotomy surgeries in 23 states, of which 2,500 used his ice-pick procedure,[91] despite the fact that he had no formal surgical training.[92] Up to 40% of Freeman's patients were gay individuals subjected to a lobotomy[93] in order to change their homosexual orientation, leaving most of these individuals severely disabled for the rest of their lives.[94] While promoted at the time as a treatment for various psychoses, the effectiveness of lobotomy in changing sexual orientation was already the subject of critical research in 1948 when a single case was investigated by Joseph Friedlander and Ralph Banay.[95] A video depicting the "ice-pick lobotomy" of a homosexual man was featured in the documentary film, Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker.[4][15][16]

Studies of conversion therapy[edit]

"Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation?"[edit]

In May 2001, Robert Spitzer presented "Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation", a study of attempts to change homosexual orientation through ex-gay ministries and conversion therapy, at the American Psychiatric Association's convention in New Orleans. The study was partly a response to the APA's 2000 statement cautioning against clinical attempts at changing homosexuality, and was aimed at determining whether such attempts were ever successful rather than how likely it was that change would occur for any given individual. Spitzer wrote that some earlier studies provided evidence for the effectiveness of therapy in changing sexual orientation, but that all of them suffered from methodological problems.[1]

In 2012, Spitzer renounced[96][97] and retracted this study, stating "I was quite wrong in the conclusions that I made from this study. The study does not provide evidence, really, that gays can change. And that's quite an admission on my part."[61][98][99][100] He also apologized to the gay community for making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy,[62] calling it his only professional regret.[63] Spitzer has requested that all "ex-gay" therapy organizations such as NARTH, PFOX, American College of Pediatricians, and Focus on the Family stop citing his study as evidence for conversion therapy.[100]

Analysis of the May 2001 Spitzer report[edit]

The study results were based solely on interviews with the patients and not on any objective observed results. This made it possible and likely that the report was reporting what the patients wanted their results to be rather than the actual results.

Spitzer reported that after intervention, 66% of the men and 44% of the women had achieved "Good Heterosexual Functioning", which he defined as requiring five criteria (being in a loving heterosexual relationship during the last year, overall satisfaction in emotional relationship with a partner, having heterosexual sex with the partner at least a few times a month, achieving physical satisfaction through heterosexual sex, and not thinking about having homosexual sex more than 15% of the time while having heterosexual sex). He found that the most common reasons for seeking change were lack of emotional satisfaction from gay life, conflict between same-sex feelings and behavior and religious beliefs, and desire to marry or remain married.[1][101] This paper was widely reported in the international media and taken up by politicians in the United States, Germany, and Finland, and by conversion therapists.[1]

In 2003, Spitzer published the paper in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Spitzer's study has been criticized on numerous ethical and methodological grounds, and "press releases from both NGLTF and HRC sought to undermine Spitzer's credibility by connecting him politically to right-wing groups that had backed the ex-gay movement".[102] Gay activists argued that the study would be used by conservatives to undermine gay rights.[1] Spitzer acknowledged that the study sample consisted of people who sought treatment primarily because of their religious beliefs (93% of the sample), served in various church-related functions, and who publicly spoke in favor of changing homosexual orientation (78%), and thus were strongly motivated to overreport success. Critics felt he dismissed this source of bias, without even attempting to measure deception or self-deception (a standard practice in self-reporting psychological tests like MMPI-2).[103] That participants had to rely upon their memories of what their feelings were before treatment may have distorted the findings. It was impossible to determine whether any change that occurred was due to the treatment because it was not clear what it involved and there was no control group.[1] Spitzer's own data showed that claims of change were reflected mostly in changes in self-labelling and behavior, less in attractions, and least in the homoerotic content during the masturbatory fantasies; this particular finding was consistent with other studies in this area.[104] Participants may have been bisexual before treatment. Follow-up studies were not conducted.[1] Spitzer stressed the limitations of his study. Spitzer said that the number of gay people who could successfully become heterosexual was likely to be "pretty low",[105] and conceded that his subjects were "unusually religious".[106]

"Changing Sexual Orientation: A Consumer's Report"[edit]

Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder found in "Changing Sexual Orientation: A Consumer's Report", a peer-reviewed study of 202 respondents[107] published in 2002, that 88% of participants failed to achieve a sustained change in their sexual behavior and 3% reported changing their orientation to heterosexual. The remainder reported either losing all sexual drive or attempting to remain celibate, with no change in attraction. Some of the participants who failed felt a sense of shame and had gone through conversion therapy programs for many years. Others who failed believed that therapy was worthwhile and valuable. Many respondents felt harmed by the attempt to change, and reported depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, hypervigilance of gender-deviant mannerisms, social isolation, fear of being a child abuser and poor self-esteem. Of the 8 respondents (out of a sample of 202) who reported a change in sexual orientation, 7 worked as ex-gay counselors or group leaders.[108]

Medical, scientific and legal views[edit]

Further information: Biology and sexual orientation, Environment and sexual orientation, Timeline of sexual orientation and medicine, and Homosexuality and psychology

Legal status[edit]

 ArgentinaSince 2010, no diagnosis can be made in the field of mental health on the exclusive basis of sexual orientation.[109]
 AustraliaBanned in one state: In February 2016, the Government of Victoria announced it would promptly introduce legislation to crack down on conversion therapy.[110] On 9 February 2016, the Health Complaints Bill 2016 was introduced to the lower house of the Victorian Parliament. The bill creates a Health Complaints Commissioner with increased powers to take action against groups performing conversion therapy; these powers ranging from issuing public warnings to banning them from practicing in Victoria. The bill passed the lower house on 25 February 2016, passed the upper house on 14 April 2016 with minor amendments and passed the lower house with the attached amendments on 27 April 2016.[111]Royal assent was granted on 5 May 2016. The law went into effect on 1 February 2017. Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory are also considering enacting laws to crack down on conversion therapy.[112]
 BrazilFederal ban, currently being litigated: In 1999, the Federal Council of Psychology issued two provisions which state that "psychologists shall not collaborate in events or services offering treatment and cure for homosexuality", and that "psychologists will neither pronounce nor participate in public speeches, in the mass media, reinforcing social prejudice related to homosexuals as pursuing any kind of psychological disorder". Brazil thus became the first country in the world to ban conversion therapy.[113] In 2013, the Commission for Human Rights of Brazil's lower house of Congress, headed by an evangelical Christian man, approved legislation that would nullify the Council's provisions and legalize conversion therapy.[113] The bill subsequently died without any more legislative action. In September 2017, a federal judge in Brasília approved the use of conversion therapy by a psychologist, overruling the 1999 decision.[114] The Federal Council of Psychology has promised to appeal.[115]
 CanadaBanned in two provinces: Two Canadian provinces ban conversion therapy. On 22 May 2015, Manitoban Health Minister Sharon Blady announced measures to stop conversion therapy in Manitoba.[116] In June 2015, the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act was unanimously approved by the Legislature of Ontario. The act bans conversion therapy on minors and makes sure that public health insurance cannot cover it for anyone, of any age.[117]Alberta is also considering a ban.[118]
 ChileIn February 2016, the Chilean Ministry of Health expressed their opposition to conversion therapy. The statement said: "We consider that practices known as conversion therapies represent a grave threat to health and well-being, including the life, of the people who are affected."[119]
 ChinaIn China, courts have ruled instances of conversion therapy to be illegal on two occasions; however, legal precedents in China are not enforceable in future cases. In December 2014, a Beijing court ruled in favor of a gay man in a case against a conversion therapy clinic. The court ruled that such treatments are illegal and ordered the clinic to apologize and pay monetary compensation.[120] In June 2016, a man from Henan Province sued a hospital in the city of Zhumadian for forcing him to undergo conversion therapy[121] and was also awarded a public apology and compensation.[122] Following these two successful rulings, LGBT groups are now calling on the Chinese Health Ministry to ban conversion therapy.[123]
 EcuadorDe facto ban, not enforced: In Ecuador, the Government's view is that conversion therapy is proscribed by a 1999 law banning anti-gay discrimination. However, no law explicitly bans conversion therapy, and enforcement of the de facto ban has not been consistent.[124] In January 2012, the Ecuadorian Government raided three conversion therapy clinics in Quito, rescued dozens of women who were abused and tortured in an effort to "cure their homosexuality", and promised to shut down every such clinic in the country.[125]
 IndiaIn February 2014, the Indian Psychiatric Association issued a statement that there was no evidence to prove that homosexuality was unnatural. "Based on existing scientific evidence and good practice guidelines from the field of psychiatry, Indian Psychiatric Society would like to state that there is no evidence to substantiate the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness or a disease. IPS will issue a more detailed statement in due course of time".[126]
 IsraelIn October 2014, the Ministry of Health issued a statement announcing that it considers conversion therapy to "create false impressions of scientific recognition even though there is no scientific evidence that it is at all successful. It may also cause harm to the individual."[127]

In February 2016 and in March 2017, the Knesset rejected bills introduced by former Health Minister Yael German that would have banned conversion therapy in Israel for minors. The bills were rejected 37-45 and 26-38, respectively.[128]

 LebanonIn 2013, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society stated that conversion therapy seeking to "convert" gays and bisexuals into straights has no scientific backing and asked health professionals to rely only on science when giving opinion and treatment in this matter.[129]
 MalaysiaLegal and state-backed: In February 2017, the Malaysian Government endorsed conversion therapy, claiming homosexuality can be "cured" through extensive training.[130] In June 2017, the Health Ministry began a film competition to find the best way to "cure" and prevent homosexuality. The competition was later cancelled, following massive outrage.[131]
 MaltaNationwide ban: In December 2016, the Parliament of Malta unanimously approved the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression, becoming the first country in the European Union to ban conversion therapy.[132][133]
 South AfricaThe South African Society of Psychiatrists states that "there is no scientific evidence that reparative or conversion therapy is effective in changing a person's sexual orientation. There is, however, evidence that this type of therapy can be destructive".[134]

In February 2015, owners of a conversion therapy camp were found guilty of murder, child abuse and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm after three teens were found dead at the camp.[135]

  SwitzerlandDe facto ban: In Switzerland, it is unlawful for a medical professional to carry out conversion therapy. In 2016, the Swiss Federal Council wrote in response to a parliamentary interpellation that in its view, conversion therapies are "ineffective and cause significant suffering to young people subject to them", and would constitute a breach of professional duties on the part of any care professional undertaking them. As such, in the government's view, any care professional undertaking such therapies is liable to be sanctioned by the cantonal authorities. Whether such therapies also constitute a criminal offense is to be determined by the criminal courts in the individual case, according to the Federal Council.[136]
 TaiwanNationwide ban: On 13 May 2016, the Health Bureau of the Taichung City Government announced that medical institutions in Taichung are prohibited from engaging in conversion therapy. According to Shader Liu, a member of Taichung's Gender Equality Committee, any group - medical, civil or religious - that practices the treatment is violating the Taiwanese Physicians Act and Psychologists Act.[137] Regulations banning conversion therapy bypassed the Taiwanese Parliament in late January 2017 and took effect in March 2017. This made Taiwan the first country in Asia to ban conversion therapy.[138][139] Anyone who practices conversion therapy is subject to criminal prosecution. Doctors who engage in conversion therapy are subject to a fine up to NT$500,000 (US$15,850) and cancellation of physician license.[140]
Freud (1856–1939) was skeptical of the possibility of therapeutic conversion.
Map of countries that have bans on sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts with minors.

  Ban on conversion therapy on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

  Ban on conversion therapy pending/case-by-case bans

  No ban on conversion therapy


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