Global Human Rights Defence

Conversion Therapy in Europe: A Legalised Torture in 2022
A protester holds up a sign reading: "You can't cure us. We're not sick." Source: Trevor Wilson/CBC, 2019

Author: Hanorah Hardy

Department: Europe


Over 69 States around the world currently criminalise homosexual relations between consenting adults. This means that two billion people are being discriminated against daily in 2021 (UN News, 2022).

One such way that LGBTQI+ are subject to emotional, mental and physical mistreatment is through ‘conversion therapy’. Conversion therapies are “designed to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and can cause sustained psychological and physical harm to those on whom they are carried out” (HRC, 2020). Astonishingly, in 2022, conversion therapy became a commonly accepted practice in EU member states. Conversion therapies cause profound physical and psychological trauma to people within the LGBTQI+ community, so much so that UN mechanisms against torture have judged that these practices could be tantamount to acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (UN News, 2022).

What is Conversion Therapy? 

Conversion therapy is “an umbrella term used to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature, all of which have a  common belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed. Such practices aim (or claim to aim) at changing people from gay, lesbian, or bisexual to heterosexual and from trans or gender diverse to cisgender” (HRC, 2020). At present, conversion therapies are carried out in various countries all around the world through private and public mental healthcare providers, faith-based organisations, traditional healers and State bodies. According to a report by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), practices include but are not limited to: talk therapy or psychotherapy, including group therapy, medication, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, electroshock therapy, aversive treatments (including electric shock to the hands and/or genitals or nausea-inducing medication administered with the presentation of homoerotic stimuli), exorcisms, force-feeding or food deprivation, forcing an individual to be nude or undressed usually in the presence of others, behavioural conditioning, isolation, verbal abuse and humiliation, hypnosis, hospital confinement and beatings, and other ‘corrective’ violence, including rape (IRCT, 2020). Since 2020, only four countries have banned the practice: Brazil, Ecuador, Germany and Malta. Another four countries worldwide have regional laws and partial bans: the US, Canada, Australia and Spain. There are also five countries – Argentina, Uruguay, Samoa, Fiji and Nauru – that also have indirect bans (ILGA, 2020). 

Conversion Therapy in Europe

In March 2018, the European Parliament passed a Resolution condemning the practice of conversion therapy and urged the Member States to ban it. The Parliament stated that it “welcomes initiatives prohibiting LGBTQI+ conversion therapies and banning the pathologization of trans identities and urges all Member States to adopt similar measures that respect and uphold the right to gender identity and gender expression.” It continued that it “deplores the fact that transgender people are still considered mentally ill in the majority of Member States and calls on those states to review their national mental health catalogues and to develop alternative stigma-free access models, ensuring that medically necessary treatment remains available for all trans people; deplores the fact that several Member States today still impose requirements on transgender people such as medical intervention in order to have the changed gender recognised (including in passports and official identity documents) and forced sterilisation as a condition for gender reassignment” (European Parliament, 2018). Despite what seemed like an important step in Europe towards banning the practice of conversion therapy in all EU member states, in 2022, not only do many States still actively promote conversion therapy as a legitimate form of medicine, but there has also been an incredibly worrying shift in anti-LGBTQI+ actions in member states such as in Poland and Hungary rolling back on laws protecting LGBTQI+ people and their rights. 

Different practices of conversion therapy exist in Europe at present. The IRCT’s report on Conversion Therapy found that method has been used in France, Russia and Turkey. There were also reports from Russia, saying that practice has often been administered by force. They reported that psychotherapeutic measures to change the sexual orientation of some people had also been taken in Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, Ireland and the United Kingdom (IRCT, 2020). In Russia, Human Rights Watch reported that psychologists often attribute all of the individuals’ problems to their sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving their real issuesunaddressed and resulting in attempted conversion efforts instead (Human Rights Watch, 2020). Another prevalent method of conversion therapy in Europe was exorcisms and ritual cleansing, according to the report. These were documented in France, Germany, Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Conversion therapy is frequently carried out in religious settings. A notable example is the organisation Core Issues Trust that operates in Belfast, Northern Ireland, registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. Core Issues describes itself as “a non-profit Christian ministry supporting men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression” (Core Issues Trust, 2022). Many civil society organisations and politicians have called for it to be stripped of its charity status due to the explicit and implicit harm it does to LGBTQI+ people in Northern Ireland. While only brief examples of conversion therapy still exists, it highlights how prevalent and normalised the practice is in European society. Conversion therapy bolsters much stigmatism against the LGBTQI+ community in Europe and serves to harm the community explicitly and implicitly. 


While the situation in Europe reported in this article seem bleak, there has been a myriad of hope brought through the work carried out by campaigners, civil society organisations and the fact that some European countries putting an outright ban on conversion therapy. For example, thanks to the tireless efforts of campaigners in the UK, the British government has now published a detailed proposal to ban conversion therapy. Similar proposals and campaigns have also appeared in Ireland, and just at the end of last year, France’s Senate overwhelmingly voted in favour of a ban on LGBT conversion therapy (Euronews, 2021). Conversion therapy is an attack on human integrity, and one should not be made to feel that they cannot be who they are in Europe. The campaigns mentioned above are just a few of many, and they serve as hope for the future that conversion therapy will be outlawed and Europe will become a more free and inclusive space for LGBTQI+ people. 



Human Rights Campaign (2020). The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. HRC Foundation.

Human Rights Watch (2018). No Support – Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” Law Imperils LGBT Youth. Human Rights Watch.  

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (2020). Curbing Deception – A world Survey of Legal Restrictions and of So-Called Conversion Therapies. ILGA.

International rehabilitation council for torture victims (2020) It’s Torture Not Therapy. IRCT.

Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (2020). Practices of so-called “conversion therapy”.  Human Rights Council. 

European Parliament 

E-001339-18. LGBTQI+ conversion therapies. European Parliament, Council of the European Union. 

2 March 2018

P-003214/2021. Banning conversion therapies in the EU. European Parliament, Council of the European Union.

P8_TA(2018)0056. Situation of fundamental rights in the EU in 2018.  

News Articles 

Euronews (2021, December 18). ‘There is nothing to cure’: Senators back ban on LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ Euronews. 

France 24 (2020, May 16) Albania becomes third European country to ban gay ‘conversion therapy’ France 24. 

Stonewall (2017). ‘Conversion Therapy’. Stonewall.

United Nations (2022, February 18). One UN human rights expert’s fight to eliminate ‘conversion therapies’. UN News.


Core Issues Trust (2022, March 11) Available at:



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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

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Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.