The US state of Maryland has officially banned performing so-called gay "conversion therapy" on young people.

“Conversion therapy” is a practice that seeks to “cure” LGBT+ people of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It is ineffective, according to several national health organisations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The APA criticised gay conversion therapy for its “serious potential to harm young people”.

The Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan signed into law on 15 May, threatens mental health or child care practitioners with disciplinary action if they are found attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under the age of 18.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, welcomed the change.

No child should ever be subjected to the abusive practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’

This dangerous and inhumane form of child abuse has no basis in science and is uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization

According to the Trevor Project, a US-based LGBT+ organisation, young people who are rejected by their families over their sexual orientation or gender identity are more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

While Maryland’s new legislation will be welcomed, there are still thirty-six US states where conducting conversion therapy on children is legal.

In the UK, the Conservative government rejected calls to ban conversion therapy in February 2018. Research by LGBT+ charity Stonewall revealed that 10 per cent of UK health care staff have witnessed colleagues expressing the belief that lesbian, gay and bi people can be "cured" of their sexual orientation. On the basis of this and wider evidence, Stonewall are calling for central government to publicly condemn this practice and take further steps to ensure the practice is unavailable.

In March 2018, the European Parliament condemned the practice and told member governments to ban it, though only a small number of member nations have done so.

In Africa, "conversion therapy" is more widespread, with countries such as Uganda introducing state-sanctioned programmes this year.

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