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Conversion Therapy Bans: Enshrining a Contested View of Human Nature in Law

Darius Lee

(2021) 33 SAcLJ 483

This article examines bans on “conversion therapy”, a broad term used to describe efforts or interventions to change or suppress the sexual orientation or gender identity of persons, which a growing number of jurisdictions have passed bans thereon. After examining the normative debate over such bans, the article considers conversion therapy against the framework of international human rights law, followed by a survey of conversion therapy bans (if any) in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Finally, it discusses Singapore’s stance on conversion therapy and potential legal issues if a ban were passed. The article makes the case that, while coercive, violent or involuntary conduct associated with conversion therapy are violations of human rights and ought to be banned, conversion therapy bans in various jurisdictions are often overly wide and essentially enshrine in law a contested view of human nature, with consequences for various rights and freedoms.