Partner of tragic West Hampstead doctor backs MP’s call to ban ‘gay cures’
- Credit: Archant
The partner of a doctor who killed himself after being told to seek treatment for his homosexuality has welcomed a Parliamentary debate to ban “gay cures”.
Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, secured Tuesday’s debate in Westminster Hall.
MPs discussed whether to ban the controversial therapy, which sees homosexuality as a problem to be corrected with treatment.
Matt Ogston was the partner of Dr Nazim Mahmood, who died after jumping from the top floor appartment they shared in Fawley Street, West Hampstead, last July.
Mr Ogston said: “The idea of gay therapy is ridiculous.
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“It’s so important that it’s banned, but more importantly, that the message is put out there to all communities that this is just the way some people are.”
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Dr Mahmood, known as Naz, had feared revealing his sexuality to his Muslim family and kept his 13-year relationship with Mr Ogston a secret.
He finally admitted he was gay to his mother two days before his tragic death, and she suggested he see a psychiatrist to see if he could be “cured”.
Mr Ogston said: “It comes down to a lack of understanding. It’s not just about religion or culture.
“It would have been our 14 year anniversary today (Tuesday) so I’m not doing great at the moment.
“I miss him every day, and I hope that what happened to him never happens to anyone else, so I welcome the debate and hope it leads to a law being passed.”
Mr Ogston founded the Naz and Matt Foundation to tackle homophobia and counteract the notion that being gay is a choice.
Mr Ogston said his campaigning work involves going into schools in London to try and impress upon vulnerable young people that their sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of.
Mike Freer, who is gay and married his long-term partner earlier this year, echoed the sentiments of Mr Ogston.
He told the Ham&High: “There is a perfectly legitimate role for counselling for people who may be struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.
“But there is a line over which we should not allow people to cross, and that line is what I would call aversion therapy.
“The British Counsel of Psychotherapists have accepted that sexuality cannot be cured, but I think it should be enshrined in law that aversion therapies should be banned.”
Mr Freer said he is aware of aversion therapies where people are given drugs to induce nausea and woken up every two hours, with imagery of same sex activity shown to them so they associated this with sickness.
He said he has also heard stories of electric shock therapy being used in this country as part of aversion therapy.
Mr Freer said it was difficult to say exactly how widespread such “treatments” were, but pointed to a 2009 survey of mental health professionals which revealed that 17 per cent of respondents had referred someone for aversion therapy. Those surveyed were members of the British Psychological Society, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Mr Freer said: “People might associate these therapies with a bygone age or with evangelical America, but it’s still happening in the UK, and sometimes through referral by the NHS.”
At the moment, there is a voluntary code for health care professionals regarding the avoidance of gay aversion therapy, but Mr Freer believes this is insufficient.
During the debate, Mr Freer referred to some of the available therapies as “quackery”, and said: “We regulate dentists, but we have no statutory regulation for psychotherapists.”
But public health minister Jane Ellison said the government has “no current plans” to ban or restrict the therapies with legislation.
For further help and support, see www.nazandmattfoundation.org or contact the Samaritans on 116 123.