One UN human rights skilled’s combat to eradicate ‘conversion therapies’


This criminalisation has measurable penalties by way of public well being and entry to training, says Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN’s impartial human rights skilled on safety in opposition to violence and discrimination based mostly on sexual orientation and gender id.

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Created by the Human Rights Council in 2016 by a majority of States involved about victims of violence and discrimination, based mostly on their sexual orientation or gender id, the skilled’s mandate has been entrusted since 2017 to Mr. Madrigal-Borloz, a Costa Rican-born lawyer and trainer at Harvard Legislation College. 

In an interview with the UN Workplace at Geneva (UNOG), Mr. Madrigal-Borloz mentioned he advocates for a world freed from the criminalisation of gender orientation and gender id, together with the elimination of conversion therapies.

For instance, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz says that criminalisation ends in “younger LGBT individuals dropping out of college thrice greater than non-LGBT individuals, or trans individuals getting HIV/AIDS, 47 occasions greater than homosexual males – and even 76 occasions greater than the final inhabitants.” 

The explanation for this gigantic discrepancy, he factors out, is that too typically a trans one that is unwell, won’t search well being companies for worry of being ridiculed and won’t obtain the care they really want.

© UNICEF/Danielle Pereira

Moisés Maciel da Silva, 19, from São Paulo, Brazil, discovered he was residing with HIV when he turned 18 years outdated.

Harmful ‘conversion remedy’ delusion

The criminalisation of various sexual orientations or gender identities can be associated to “conversion therapies”, the topic of a 2020 report by Mr. Madrigal-Borloz.

The Human Rights Council-appointed skilled addressed the problem of those “therapies” that goal to alter an individual’s sexual orientation or gender id, on the supposed premise that LGBT and gender variant persons are “sick”.

In line with his report back to the Council, “conversion therapies” goal to remodel a non-heterosexual individual right into a heterosexual individual, and a trans or gender variant individual right into a cisgender individual (an individual whose gender id corresponds to their civil standing).

The report says that these therapies are practiced in a minimum of 68 international locations on each continent; the report cites international locations in Africa, China, the Republic of Korea, and Jap European States.

In the USA, an estimated 700,000 lesbian, homosexual, trans, or gender variant individuals have been subjected to those practices sooner or later of their lives. In Switzerland, based on estimates by civil society organizations, roughly 14,000 persons are affected.

UN Ladies/Mariken Harbitz

Altering households give rise to wanted coverage modifications. Sao Mimol kisses her companion in Cambodia throughout an LGBT Delight occasion.

A type of torture

Exorcisms by church buildings or healers, “corrective” rapes, obligation to bear psychological remedy: throughout his working visits to a number of international locations, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz collected quite a few testimonies from lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, trans and gender variant individuals who have been victims of those practices.

“Conversion therapies” trigger profound bodily and psychological trauma to lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender and gender variant individuals of all ages who’re victims of those practices, he says.

A lot so, that UN mechanisms in opposition to torture have judged that these practices might be tantamount to acts of torture or merciless, inhuman or degrading remedy.

The function of the Unbiased Knowledgeable will not be solely to make observations but additionally to advise States on corrective measures to take. And, in mild of the struggling that conversion remedy causes, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz explicitly recommends that States prohibit these practices, repealing legal guidelines that let them in addition to people who criminalise range of sexual orientation and gender id.

He additionally recommends pressing motion to guard youngsters and youth.


The truth is, efforts in opposition to conversion therapies have accelerated in the previous few years, notably with their prohibition by the parliaments of Canada and France, in 2021, after comparable steps in Germany and Albania, for instance.

In Switzerland, the cantons of Vaud and Geneva, have just lately launched initiatives alongside the identical traces, in parallel with the submission of two initiatives to the decrease home of the federal parliament.

That mentioned, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz warns in opposition to makes an attempt by States which don’t simply keep away from prohibiting conversion therapies, however really promote them.

For instance, Ghana is contemplating a legislation that might punish anybody suspected of being LGBT+ with 5 years in jail, and explicitly permits conversion remedy. Together with 9 different human rights consultants, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz wrote to the Head of State of Ghana to attract his consideration to the truth that the legislation constituted “a basic departure from the State’s worldwide obligations” and to provide him “examples of the pernicious results the legislation would have on individuals residing in Ghana — together with the unimaginable struggling that conversion remedy would trigger”.

The work continues

Mr. Madrigal-Borloz says he’ll proceed to work on the problem of conversion therapies. Particularly, he says, it is going to be necessary to boost consciousness amongst spiritual organizations of the necessity to unequivocally condemn such therapies.

Mr. Madrigal-Borloz will proceed his work to eradicate violence and discrimination based mostly on sexual orientation and gender id, by way of 2023.

A coalition of at least 1,327 organizations in 161 international locations supported the renewal of the mandate in 2021, with solely a minority of Human Rights Council Member States opposing it.

“The mandate should proceed till such time as it may be mentioned, in an goal approach, that there isn’t any discrimination or violence based mostly on gender orientation and gender id. I am unsure I will ever see it in my lifetime. However we’re shifting ahead in a decisive approach,” says Mr. Madrigal-Borloz.

‘Particular Procedures’

The mandate of the Unbiased Knowledgeable on safety in opposition to violence and discrimination based mostly on sexual orientation and gender id is one in all 45 “particular procedures” mandates appointed by the Human Rights Council.

They help the Council in finishing up its work in areas as numerous as defending the rights of individuals of African descent, combatting discrimination in opposition to ladies and ladies, and addressing the rights of migrants and excessive poverty.

Mandate holders – Particular Rapporteurs, Unbiased Specialists and Working Group members, are thought of to be the “eyes and ears” of the Council. They report and advise on human rights conditions from a thematic or nation perspective. They don’t seem to be United Nations workers and don’t obtain a wage for his or her work.

UN Ladies/Nguyen Minh Duc

Nguyen Trong Hung (proper) opened a café for the LGBT group in Son La, Viet Nam.


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