A commitment to ban the practice in England and Wales has been set out in the Queen’s Speech
BY CARRIE LYELL
Conversion therapy is to be banned in England and Wales and a new support fund created to help those affected by the abhorrent practice, it was announced today.
Conversion therapy is the controversial practice of trying to alter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through various interventions, from psychological to spiritual. Examples of conversion therapy include electric shock therapy, castration, nausea-inducing drugs and religious “support groups”.
In 2007, the Royal College of Psychiatrists reported there was “no evidence” that a person’s sexual orientation could be changed via these kind of interventions, and in 2018 the government said it was working towards a total ban on conversion therapy across medical, non-medical and religious settings.
Announcing plans for a consultation and a ban introduced in parliamentary legislation, Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss said the government was “committed to stamping out the practice of conversion therapy”.
“As a global leader on LGBT rights, this government has always been committed to stamping out the practice of conversion therapy.
“We want to make sure that people in this country are protected, and these proposals mean nobody will be subjected to coercive and abhorrent conversion therapy.
“Alongside this legislation, we will make new funding available to ensure that victims have better access to the support they need.”
Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, has campaigned for a ban on conversion therapy. She said today’s announcement sends “a very powerful message”.
“Love is not a pathology, and it does not need treating. LGBTQ+ so-called conversion therapy is little more than bigotry and quackery packaged up by sinister charlatans to share and profit off the vulnerable.
“Since my election, I’ve worked tirelessly to secure this ban, which is a tribute to the survivors of conversion therapy, those whose lives were lost too soon because of this abhorrent abuse, and to all those hurting or made ashamed for being who they are.
“This ban will see our government ensure that LGBTQ+ people have the liberty to live their lives free from identity-based violence and abuse.”
Expressing concern over plans for a public consultation, Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley said: “We welcome the commitment to introduce legislation to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’. However, the news of a consultation is concerning and will be hard for our communities to hear.
“We don’t need a consultation to know that all practices that seek to convert, suppress, cure or change us are dangerous, abusive and must be banned. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex and ace communities have been waiting almost three years for the UK Government to follow through on their promise to ban all conversion practices, and any delay leaves us at further risk of abuse.
“The UK Government must publish a comprehensive Bill now, as well as a clear timeline for its implementation. As part of the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition, we will continue to hold the UK Government to account on their promise to ban this abhorrent practice for good, everywhere it happens and to everyone it harms, and protect our communities from harm.”
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was also critical of today’s announcement and “further delay, lack of clarity and absence of a timetable” from the government.
He said: “The government has been promising this ban for nearly three years and still we don’t have it. All we’ve had is more than 1,000 days of dithering.
“We don’t yet know the precise details of this ban and there have been reports that it will not apply to religious bodies and practices. We have had countless studies and consultations. We don’t need any more. It’s time Boris got on with it and got this ban done.
“We need to see the proposed legislation. It must not allow religious exemptions. Faith bodies are the main proponents. The ban needs to be full and comprehensive and provide statutory support for victims and survivors.
“Conversion therapy has no scientific or therapeutic support whatsoever. It is about suppressing a person’s sexuality or gender identity. All too often it leads to mental and emotional damage. It is about attempting to exorcise an integral part of who a person is. Moreover, it doesn’t work.
“In short, it is fraudulent quackery, as well as being inherently abusive. Boris and his government must accept the evidence, and dither no longer. There has already been almost three years of inaction and excuses. The Conservative government pledged in July 2018 to outlaw conversion therapy but there is still no ban, only lots of dithering.”
Earlier this year, the BBC reported that in a 2018 survey of 108,000 LGBTQI people, 2% of respondents had been offered some form of conversion therapy, with another 5% offered it.
Elsewhere in the UK, a campaign to end conversion therapy in Scotland received cross-party support earlier this year, with the Scottish government saying it “fully supports” moves to end conversion therapy, adding: “We regard it as unethical, harmful and as having no place in Scotland”. And in Northern Ireland politicians passed a motion in April for the practice to be banned “in all its forms” by 59 votes to 24.
Conversion therapy is currently illegal in Switzerland and parts of Australia, Canada and the US.
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