Onwards: International panels on banning all forms of conversion therapies

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This series of panel discussions is part of the global Ban Conversion Therapies project, which keeps track of all the bans of conversion therapies that are already in place and of all initiatives towards bans.

“Conversion therapies” are pseudoscientific practices of trying to change an individual’s behaviour to conform to the social expectations of a particular culture using psychological and physical interventions.

Various jurisdictions around the world have passed laws against LGTBQIA+ conversion therapy. However, the same underlying techniques of coercion continue to be applied to young autistic children and other vulnerable people.

We are building on the results achieved to date, focusing on the human rights violations in countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In September 2021 our submission to the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill in Aotearoa New Zealand was well received:

Dr Elizabeth Kerekere MP: It seems to me that communities/people with disabilities have been excluded from this bill. It seems that if you are prohibiting a practice, then we should prohibit it whoever it happens to, and I have certainly been approached by the members of the Autistic community and by other people, especially from the Deaf community, and people with other forms of disability, who have all had experiences of this. Have you thought about, if it is not this bill that can do that, where else this might sit, because we have concerns from people about intersex people, so on one level a bill should say whoever harm is being caused, whoever it happens to, that should be included, but separately from that, if we looking to do major change in the way the health system works, have you thought about other ways to make that change?

Jorn Bettin: We see this bill as a chance to make a start towards greater levels of inclusion, and what we are proposing in very concrete terms is that the bill can very easily be extended to include all neurodivergent people, not limited to autistic people. We realise that there is much more work that needs to be done, to actually at ground level effect those changes. We need to change the culture, to create a much more inclusive culture, because it is ultimately the life experience of neurodivergent people. Certainly from personal experience I can speak from an autistic perspective, society is traumatising us. We are being traumatised not because we are autistic, but it’s the way our society works, and the way society imposes constraints on autistic people that are incompatible with our humanity.

Vanushi Walters MP: Thank you Jorn again for your submission, but also for raising very valid concerns about the experiences of autistic people. And I think from my part the terminology of identity foreclosure isn’t one I’d heard before, and I think it has usefully lent to this discussion, but also probably other discussions that we may be having in the discrimination space, so thank you again.

You are invited to listen to our series of international panel discussions to progress towards comprehensive bans of all forms of conversion therapies (including ABA).

Background on the CRPD

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (A/RES/61/106) was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and was opened for signature on 30 March 2007. There were 82 signatories to the Convention, 44 signatories to the Optional Protocol, and 1 ratification of the Convention. This is the highest number of signatories in history to a UN Convention on its opening day. It is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century and is the first human rights convention to be open for signature by regional integration organizations. The Convention entered into force on 3 May 2008.

The Convention follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects”  of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.

The Convention is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension. It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.

The Convention was negotiated during eight sessions of an Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly from 2002 to 2006, making it the fastest negotiated human rights treaty.

Further panels in 2022

We will host further panel discussions and coordinate between national campaigns in 2022 and beyond, until the human rights of autistic people (including protections from all forms of conversion therapies) are adequately supported by appropriate protocols in all countries that have signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Further questions to be explored in more detail:

  1. An overview of the PAABA, the ABAI’s neocolonialist venture into Africa.
  2. How do we run a parallel campaign to get people to voluntarily stop doing ABA before the ban happens?
  3. How do we engage respectfully with survivors, to not retraumatise them? Considering this is likely to be a harrowing period, but their stories count?

Panel 5 – December 2021

Date and time: 16 December 2021, 6 pm UTC
(1 pm EST / 10 am PST / 8 pm SAST / 9 pm EAT, 7 am NZDT)

Panellists:

  1. Tania Melnyczuk, Founder, Autistic Strategies Network, South Africa
  2. Karen Muriuki, Autistic Self Advocate, founder of Kenyans Living with Autism and a Bridge Kenya CRPD-SDGs fellow, Kenya
  3. Fiona Clarke, Autism consultant and disability activist, United Kingdom
  4. Kim Crawley, Cybersecurity researcher and writer, Hack The Box, Canada

Facilitator: Jorn Bettin, activist, Autistic Collaboration Trust, and knowledge archaeologist, S23M, Aotearoa

➜ Transcript

Questions discussed:

  1. Which national campaigns against ABA have already explicitly referenced specific clauses within the CRPD, and linked them to proposals for implementation within local legal and regulatory frameworks?
  2. How do we approach our governments? What are the correct steps? To what extent do we need to consider local variations in the approach to be successful?
  3. Who are our potential allies and what strategies we can use to engage them?

Panel 6 – December 2021

Date and time: 17 December 2021, 7 pm UTC
(2 pm EST / 11 am PST / 9 pm SAST / 10 pm EAT, 8 am NZDT)

Panellists:

  1. Tania Melnyczuk, Founder, Autistic Strategies Network, South Africa
  2. Quinn Dexter, Âû advocate, writer & YouTuber, Autistamatic, United Kingdom
  3. Seth Benjamin, Animator, Artist, Writer, United Kingdom
  4. Kim Crawley, Cybersecurity researcher and writer, Hack The Box, Canada

Facilitator: Jorn Bettin, activist, Autistic Collaboration Trust, and knowledge archaeologist, S23M, Aotearoa

Questions discussed:

  1. What role do you think ableism plays in the world of ABA and how does it influence our approach to a ban? Could ABA exist without ableism?
  2. Who are our potential allies and what strategies we can use to engage them?
  3. How do we engage respectfully with survivors, to not retraumatise them? Considering this is likely to be a harrowing period, but their stories count?

Recordings from earlier discussions

Overview of panel discussions to date and links to recordings:

  1. Alice Richardson, Jasper Poole, Naphaphol Suwanacheep
    ➜ transcript, 11 June 2021
  2. A.W. Peet , Kim Crawley, Star Ford, Tania MeInyczuk
    ➜ transcript, 9 June 2021
  3. Allison Hoffmann, Jake Pyne, Terra Vance, Sarah Selvaggi Hernandez
    ➜ transcript, 27 May 2021
  4. Alice Richardson, Kim Crawley, Laura Dilley, Pip Carroll, Rory
    ➜ transcript, 20 May 2021

In case you have not already done so, please sign the current petition to ask the Aotearoa New Zealand government to investigate the consequences of all forms of conversion therapy, including conversion therapies that target autistic children, which are often branded as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) or Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).

Note: all international support is welcome as well. Those who don’t reside in Aotearoa New Zealand can sign the petition with postcode “0000”. This allows us to easily distinguish the level of local support from international supporters.

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