In separate letters sent last week, the Dhamma Centre of Cholchester (DCC) and the Hindu Council UK both called for an immediate ban on so-called “conversion therapy,” which attempts to change, cure, cancel, or suppress a person’s sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression.
The letter from the DCC, dated 18 June and signed by the center’s chair, Riki Hyde Chambers, OBE, and abbot, Ven. H. Pannavamsa Thero, states:
We believe that all people, independent of sexuality and gender identity, are treasured and valued beings and are a precious part of the Universe. We affirm that any practice that seeks to change, cure, cancel or suppress a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression (commonly known as “conversion therapy”) has no place in the modern world, is unethical and harmful, and is not supported by evidence.
We, therefore, call on the government to ban this degrading and harmful practice without delay.
The letter from the Hindu Council UK, released on 16 June, expressed similar ideas, noting that:
In our belief, Brahma created both male and female as equals in the golden egg of the cosmic womb (Hiranyagarbha) at the beginning of Creation and in addition, the Rishis of the Rig Veda recognised the existence of a tertiary nature (Prakriti) The Vedic Rishis also revealed the law of Karma which allow complete freedom, free choice, to live a life of dignity in accordance with the ten principles of Dharma.
The letters were shared on social media by the Ozanne Foundation, a British organization that works with religious organizations around the world to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender. The organization’s director, Jayne Ozenne, is a gay Evangelical Christian.
The UK government offered in May to advance measures to prevent these “abhorrent practices which can cause mental and physical harm.” (Reuters) In 2018, then prime minister Theresa May vowed to eradicate the practice. However, that promise has yet to be fulfilled.
Last month, the Government Equalities Office announced that legislation would have to follow public consultation to “ensure that the ban can address the practice while protecting the medical profession; defending freedom of speech; and upholding religious freedom.” (Pink News)
The European Buddhist Union issued a statement on 1 March 2018, writing:
Conversion therapy has no place in the modern medical and spiritual world. They statement is prefaced with the note that, “On a scale rarely seen has a wide range of European Buddhist organisations and teachers—covering all major Buddhist schools and traditions and stretching from Sweden to Spain—expressed their solidarity with the victims of conversion therapy. (European Buddhist Union)
As the Human Rights Campaign notes, there is no historical agreement among Buddhist schools about the nature and rights for people of various sexual orientations and gender identities:
Sexual orientation, specifically, was not elaborated upon by Siddhartha Gautama, nor is there any reference or guidance for lay people regarding sexual orientation or same-sex behavior within the Pali Canon, the scriptural texts that hold the Buddha’s original teachings. The Vinaya, a Buddhist text for monks, forbids Buddhist monks and nuns from having sexual relationships with men, women and those of other genders, such as pandanka (interpreted as those with indeterminate sexual characteristics or people who do not conform to sexual norms, such as prostitutes). (Human Rights Campaign)
Throughout history, Buddhist schools have shown varying degrees of flexibility with regional and national norms regarding these matters. The Dalai Lama, for instance, met with members of the LGBTQ community and expressed a “willingness to consider the possibility that some of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context.” (Human Rights Campaign)
Earlier this month, the bishop of Manchester, David Walker, advocated for the prosecution of religious leaders undertaking conversion therapy, observing: “Young people are continuing to suffer abuse disguised as therapy,” and adding: “Their harm is real and immediate. For their sakes we need to make this consultation both short and to the point.” (Yahoo! News)
UK to ban LGBT conversion therapy and provide more support (Reuters)
Hindu and Buddhist communities call for ‘immediate’ UK ban on ‘unethical’ conversion therapy (Pink News)
Let’s make an end to ‘conversion therapy’ and the suffering caused by it (European Buddhist Union)
Hindu and Buddhist communities call for ‘immediate’ UK ban on ‘unethical’ conversion therapy (Yahoo! News)
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