Legislation banning conversion therapy has been announced by Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan following cross-party support for the move.
Attempts to change a person’s gender or sexuality will be outlawed in all cases – not just attempts covering lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, as was the plan under Theresa May’s government. Donelan said:
“We recognise the strength of feeling on the issue of harmful conversion practices and remain committed to protecting people from these practices and making sure they can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse.
We have had constructive engagement with the Honourable Member for Rutland and Melton on her amendment which seeks to prevent children from seeing harmful online content on conversion practices.
It is right that this issue is tackled through a dedicated and tailored legislative approach, which is why we are announcing today that the Government will publish a draft Bill which will set out a proposed approach to ban conversion practices, this will apply to England and Wales. The Bill will protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender.”
The Government will publish the draft Bill shortly and will ask for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee in this parliamentary session.
According to charity Stonewall, conversion therapy attempts to “cure” someone from being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, ace, intersex, and/or queer, adding:
“Conversion practices are one-directional: the intention is to get a person to change or their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the opposite of appropriate, affirming, and healthy therapy or counselling, which will support an individual who is exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity whatever the outcome may be.
A non-exhaustive list of such practices includes pseudo-scientific counselling sessions; being induced to ingest “purifying” substances; threatening a person with homelessness; corrective rape; being prayed over as a form of “healing”; and exorcisms.”
Jayne Ozanne, former equalities advisor to No10 and survivor of conversion therapy, said:
“It’s good to hear that finally, after nearly five years, we are going to get the legislative ban that we have been so long promised.
I’m relieved to learn that the government will include full protections for trans people, but remain concerned that large loopholes may be created regarding whether someone can supposedly ‘consent’ and on religious practices.
The latter is by far the most common form in the UK and must be stopped if LGB+ lives are to be protected from this horrific abuse.”
It is at this point unclear whether the ban will cover conversion therapy an individual has consented to, with many consenting without realising the potential harm. It is also unclear whether it will include religious practices.