Other nations in the UK: take note

BY HARRIET ARGENT

The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted in favour of a motion to ban the practice of conversion therapy. 

The motion was passed on Tuesday afternoon (20 April 2021) by an overwhelming 59-24 votes following a long debate with elected representatives from the various political parties. All major parties voted in favour of the ban apart from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

This is a huge moment for Northern Ireland, and it now means their assembly legally recognises conversion therapy – a practice to remove a person’s feelings of same-sex attraction or change their gender identity – as a harmful and damaging practice. 

The Ulster Unionist Party stated it was “fundamentally wrong to view our LGBTQ community as requiring a fix or cure” and welcoming the vote, Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall said: “We are delighted that Northern Ireland has become the first UK nation to vote in favour of banning conversion therapy.

“It was moving to hear such passionate speeches from across the political spectrum,” Kelley said, adding, “Now the Minister for Communities must urgently bring forward legislation to deliver on the Assembly’s resounding mandate.”

This historic victory will have a huge impact in Northern Ireland, but it will also hopefully serve as a reminder to the rest of the UK that conversion therapy is still taking place, legally, across England, Wales and Scotland. 

Dragging their feet?

The UK government has pledged to stop the practice in the past, and in 2018, the then prime minister Theresa May promised it would be banned as part of her plan to improve the rights and lives of LGBTQI people in the UK.

But three years later, there is still no sign of this ban and the UK government has recently been criticised for not prioritising the rights and needs of LGBTQI people. 

“We hope that this powerful move forward for a full legal ban on conversion therapy will inspire swift movement from the Governments across the rest of the UK in implementing their own effective legislation to outlaw this barbaric practice,” said Kelley. 

Last month, three panel members of the government’s LGBTQ+ advisory panel quit over their alleged failure to handle issues such as a ban on conversion therapy properly, and last week, the panel was disbanded completely. 

Liz Truss, equalities minister, promised a ban on conversion therapy would come shortly, but how much longer are we expected to wait and how much more harm will be done in the process? Conversion therapy is a damaging and abhorrent practice that has been allowed to continue for far too long, and other nations need to look to their Northern Irish counterparts and take note.

“Last night, the Assembly voted to protect our communities from harm,” said Kelley. “It’s time for other nations to stop dragging their feet and follow suit.”

@HarrietRArgent

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