INTERVIEW-U.N. envoy wants global ban on 'barbaric' conversion therapies

LONDON, June 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Banning the “barbaric” practice of giving people electric shocks and injections to “cure” them of homosexuality is a key priority, the U.N. envoy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has said.

Despite global gains in LGBT rights, many gay people are still forced to undergo invasive therapy based on the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or medical condition.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who was appointed in December, said he would focus on banning so-called “conversion therapy” and repealing discriminatory laws.

“We need to create awareness that no diverse sexual orientation or sexual identity is a pathology,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview ahead of his first address to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday.

“The objective at the end is that people live free of violence and discrimination against who they are and what they love.”

The treatment, often conducted in religious settings, can involve psychoanalysis, injections and electric shocks.

In some cases, people undergo beatings, solitary confinement, and even “corrective rape” aimed at changing their sexual orientation.

“We’re talking about barbaric actions that give people great suffering,” Madrigal-Borloz said.

“The reason why this form of violation is deeply disturbing is because of the participation oftentimes of the family.”

Created in 2016 despite stiff opposition from some U.N. member states, the role of the independent expert for sexual orientation and gender identity is to improve the rights of LGBT people around the world.

While the practice of “conversion therapy” has been widely discredited, Brazil, Ecuador and Malta are the only countries that have nationwide bans, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

In other nations, the practice is prohibited by medical associations. It is legal in the United States, although several states, cities and counties have ruled it illegal.

Madrigal-Borloz said his mandate was to “contribute to eradicating violence and discrimination” against the LGBT community.