LGBTQ activists have petitioned the Russian government to ban the practice of conversion therapy, arguing that the therapy is extremely harmful and detrimental to those subjected to it, potentially even leading them to attempt suicide.
Coming Out, a global LGBTQ advocacy group, has created a petition to end the practice of conversion therapy, which purports to successfully change LGBTQ individuals’ gender identity and sexual orientation.
Conversion therapy takes many forms, ranging from so-called “talk therapy” and psychological pressuring to more extreme forms of aversion therapy, which can include nausea-inducing drugs, hypnosis, the use of hormonal drugs to alter a person’s sex drive, electroshock therapy, and forced surgical interventions. Some therapists even encourage “corrective” rape, in which a gay or lesbian person is ordered to have sex with someone of the opposite sex in order to “cure” them of their feelings of same-sex attraction.
According to the petition, the treatments commonly used as part of conversion therapy can result in a loss of libido, panic attacks, or even suicide.
The petition is close to its goal of 5,000 signatures, having collected 4,300 thus far. It calls on Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and President Vladimir Putin to ban the practice of conversion therapy, and punish therapists, through fines or jail, who force clients to undergo more harmful therapy options.
“We demand a ban on conversion therapy and criminalization of compulsory treatment and advertising of such services, as well as the introduction of penalties – a fine and/or imprisonment,” the petition reads.
Most mainstream medical and mental health organizations have condemned conversion therapy as discredited and ineffective at achieving its stated aims. For instance, a 2009 report by an American Psychological Association Task Force found that “results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through [sexual orientation change efforts].”
This is not the first time that Russia has been accused of promoting homophobia. In 2020, Russia overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. Since 2013, the country has had a law on the books that bans the spreading of “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations” among minors, which discourages mentions of homosexuality, sexually-tinged topics, or depictions of LGBTQ people or behaviors. Lawmakers recently expanded the law beyond minors, effectively criminalizing dissemination of any information that can be deemed “gay propaganda” or that portrays LGBTQ individuals in a neutral or positive light.
Brazil, Argentina, and Germany are just a few in a long list of countries that have banned conversion therapy, according to Stonewall UK. Currently, 21 American states have banned the practice, but at least three states, including Florida, are looking to prevent the enforcement of any conversion therapy bans.
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