The CAT definition of torture does not include acts perpetrated by private individuals. However, the Committee Against Torture, the treaty’s monitoring body, in its General Comment No. 2 established a “due diligence” obligation on States to prevent acts of torture or ill treatment by private individuals where they know or have reasonable grounds to suspect such acts are being committed. In its 2015 annual report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stressed that States “have an obligation to protect all persons, including LGBT and intersex persons, from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and found that conversion therapy breaches this duty.
As of end January 2022, and building on research by ILGA, Stonewall, and the UK government, conversion therapy without consent is only banned nationwide in eight States: Greece, Canada, Germany, Malta, Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, and Switzerland. Most of those instituted bans over the past two years only. Spain, the US, Australia and Mexico have regional or state bans, while seven more States (Argentina, Uruguay, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Norway and Taiwan) have mental health laws prohibiting diagnosing patients exclusively on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity which act as a form of indirect ban. National Governments and Parliaments in Ireland, New Zealand, Israel, Denmark, Finland, Mexico, France and the UK are all actively considering conversion therapy ban legislation, or are in the process of launching consultations. And in China, although there is no legal ban, the courts have twice ruled in favour of gay men who sued medical practices that attempted conversion therapy, awarding compensation.
The UN Committee against Torture, the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the OHCHR have all called upon States to ban the practice. In 2016, the UN Committee against Torture recommended that a States Party to the Convention should take “the necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to guarantee respect for the autonomy and physical and personal integrity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and prohibit the practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’.”