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Cross-party group of MPs demand equalities minster Liz Truss end gay conversion therapy

Lily Wakefield May 29, 2020
Olivia Blake: It's clear the government has not listened to trans people

Liz Truss speaking at the annual British Chambers of Commerce conference on March 28, 2019 in London, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

MPs from across the political spectrum have written a letter to UK equalities minster Liz Truss demanding a ban on conversion therapy.

So-called gay conversion therapy is often compared to torture and has been linked to higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction. All major UK health organisations have denounced the practice as damaging pseudoscience, yet while the Tories pledged to “eradicate” the cruel and traumatic practice two years ago, there has been no measurable progress. 

On Friday (May 29) officers of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global LGBT+ Rights called for UK equalities minster Liz Truss to take “urgent action” against the harmful practice.

In a letter to Truss, the group said: “We have all applauded the Government’s repeated commitments to ending this abhorrent practice — condemned across the world by medical professionals, human rights experts, and religious leaders — but we are becoming increasingly concerned by the lack of actual progress since the announcement of the policy to ban this practice almost two years ago.

“The principle is crystal clear but an excuse for inaction now seems to be being sought in supposed definitional and legal complexities.”

LGBT+ rights parliamentary group says conversion therapy ban is overdue.

The “excuse” of a ban being too legally complex is unfounded, the letter said, as there is a “growing body of research into the subject”.

The letter cited multiple reports which “tackle the complexities regarding religious practises and belief, defining what constitutes ‘conversion therapy’, how to approach the issue of informed consent, and the types of parallel interventions that can support legislative bans”.

The APPG added: “We would like to understand what steps have been taken over the last two years and what the timeline is going forward to ensure that LGBT+ people in the UK are protected… We look forward to hearing from you on your plans and how we may assist you deliver this now overdue promise.”

The grim suicide statistics of this group tells its own story.

Tory MP for Reigate and chair of the APPG Crispin Blunt said: “The UK must legislate without delay to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’.

“Delay leaves vulnerable people, meeting what for most is the most profound self-identification challenge of their lives, at the mercy of every conceivable type of quack and religious fundamentalist offering them false truths and certainties when they are at their most uncertain and anxious.

“The grim suicide statistics of this group tells its own story. Further delay would be an unconscionable betrayal of them.”

Baroness Barker, Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, added: “It is unthinkable that in the UK it remains legal to offer so-called ‘conversion therapy’ to LGBT+ people. We do not need to be ‘cured’.

“What we urgently require is primary legislation that equips those vulnerable to this abhorrent practice with a clear deterrent that they can cite as a form of self-defence.”

Truss says plans to end conversion therapy will “shortly be brought forward”

Commenting on Saturday (May 30) in a letter to MP Crispin Blunt, Truss welcomed calls for the government to end the “vile” practice.

“I fundamentally disagree with attempts to forcibly change someone’s sexuality and I will shortly be bringing forward plans to end conversion therapy. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you and members of the APPG and have asked my office to make arrangements for this to happen.”

“Where such practices are already unlawful, we will ensure the law is clear, well understood and enforced. Where dangerous conversion therapy practices are not already unlawful, I am examining the best ways to prevent them being conducted, without sending such practices underground,” she said.

She continued: “It is of course the case that we are not trying to prevent LGBT people from seeking spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their
sexual orientation. However, I should be clear that this does not extend to supporting the use of conversion therapy in any context, spiritual or otherwise.”

Truss added that her department has reached out to officials in Germany to better understand the approach they have taken to banning conversion therapy there.

“Ensuring all citizens feel safe and protected from harm should be a fundamental principle of any government. That is why we are acting to end conversion therapy for good.”

Equalities minister Liz Truss has recently provoked “deep concern” for trans rights in the UK.

In the last month, statements by Liz Truss on GRA reform have been protested by tens of thousands of people, provoked concern from the official LGBT+ group of every UK political party, and caused alarm among parents of trans youth.

The alarm has focused on Truss’s comments regarding access to healthcare for trans youth and trans women’s access to single-sex spaces, neither of which are currently covered by the GRA.

Susie Green, CEO of trans children’s charity Mermaids, told PinkNews that the issues being raised by Truss have implications not just for trans people, but for children and young people’s autonomy in general.

“Liz Truss seems determined to follow a political course guaranteed to cause serious distress to arguably the most vulnerable minority group in the UK,” Green said.

More: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights, APPG, conversion therapy, depression, equalities minister, liz truss, mental health, suicide, tory government, UK

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