OutRight Now: An Update from Our Africa "Conversion Therapy" Project

 

Dear Friend,

Almost a year has passed since we launched our program tackling so-called “conversion therapy” in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. Despite some COVID-19 related challenges and setbacks, I am pleased to share with you some updates from the program to date!

“Conversion therapy” is the most widely used term to describe practices attempting to change, suppress, or divert one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It is also sometimes called reorientation therapy, reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, or, more recently, support for unwanted same-sex attraction or transgender identities. The program was born as a result of OutRight's pioneering research - “Harmful Treatment: The Global Reach of So-Called Conversion Therapy” - which exposed that “conversion therapy” practices are prevalent across the world, including in Africa.

In South Africa, where legal and policy protections for LGBTIQ people are strong, our partner organization Access Chapter Two has been engaging with a broad range of stakeholders to introduce, train and engage them on tackling “conversion therapy”. OutRight's research found that in Africa conversion therapy practices are most often perpetrated and promoted by people acting in the name of religion, or traditional healers. As such, we have sought to involve partners like the National House of Traditional Leaders.

In Kenya the High Court recently upheld colonial-era criminalization laws, hate speech from politicians is strong, and hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTIQ people are common. As such, our local partner organization, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, has focused on identifying, training and engaging allies within civil society, in order to raise awareness among human rights and gender equality activists about “conversion therapy” and work with them to identify and eradicate the practices, and support survivors.

In Nigeria the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2006 criminalizes knowledge of LGBTIQ people and identities, as well as the “aiding and abetting” of activities purportedly in favor of same-sex marriage. Consequently our work has to remain somewhat under the radar. OutRight received numerous responses from Nigeria for our research on “conversion therapy”, but the local prevalence was impossible to discern from the report. As such, our local partners have focused on collecting more data on the prevalence and forms of “conversion therapy” in Nigeria. Preliminary findings indicate that 49% of the over 2000 survey respondents have experienced “conversion therapy” (compared with the 22% of respondents to OutRight's global survey). Around 80 participants will attend a focus group discussion to be held remotely later this month. The report is set to be completed next year.

Through alliances with civil society and other networks we seek cross-border solutions, and to apply regional pressure to eliminate all practices of “conversion therapy”.

Everyone deserves to live their lives without pressure to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

While the work is still in early stages we are in a strong position to build the program from here on. We are excited to see it develop, and work toward eradicating these harmful practices.

Thank you for your ongoing support for our cause!

Sincerely,

Jessica Stern,
Executive Director, OutRight Action International