Boris Johnson told ‘get on with’ conversion therapy ban after announcing plans for public consultation
LGBT+ activists have expressed concern at government plans to hold a public consultation on conversion therapy, with some warning that it could lead to exemptions for religious bodies.
Queen Elizabeth II promised a conversion therapy ban will be brought forward during her speech at the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday (11 May).
The Government Equalities Office confirmed directly afterwards that legislation will be advanced following a public consultation process which will “ensure that the ban can address the practice while protecting the medical profession; defending freedom of speech; and upholding religious freedom”.
Nancy Kelley, CEO at Stonewall, described plans for a public consultation as “concerning”, saying such a process “will be hard for our communities to hear”.
Kelley said: “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.”
Kelley called on the government to “publish a comprehensive bill now” and said officials should give “a clear timeline” for implementation of a conversion therapy ban.
Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner who has worked tirelessly to end conversion therapy in the UK, said she was “relieved” that the government has offered a firm commitment to ban the practice.
We have had countless studies and consultations. We don’t need any more.
However, she said the government could create “a highly dangerous loophole if it chooses to focus purely on ‘coercive’ practices.”.
“Most LGBT people in religious settings feel it is their duty to submit to those in authority and will therefore willingly follow their leaders’ ‘advice’, even if it causes them great harm,” Ozanne said.
“The government needs to implement what the UN and senior religious leaders have called for – a full ban on all conversion practices.”
Ozanne called on the government to take action now “before more lives are lost”, adding that political leaders “have consulted long enough”.
Peter Tatchell slammed the government for ‘1,000 days of dithering’ on conversion therapy
The government’s commitment was welcomed by LGBT+ rights activist Peter Tatchell, however he condemned the government for a “further delay, lack of clarity and absence of a timetable for the ban.”
Tatchell 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.”
He added: “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.”
Tatchell pointed out that there is no scientific or therapeutic backing for allowing conversion therapy to continue in any form, and said efforts to suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity “leads to mental and emotional damage”.
He described conversion therapy as “fraudulent quackery” that is “inherently abusive” and urged the government to “accept the evidence and dither no longer”.
Mermaids, a charity that works with trans youth, also welcomed the commitment to ban conversion therapy – however, the group said the ban must protect all LGBT+ people.
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“It is vital that all forms of so-called conversion therapy are banned, in all settings including psychological, medical, privately in families and communities, and, crucially, in faith and religious settings,” said Lui Asquith, director of legal and policy at Mermaids.
The charity said any further delay is “time wasted” and will result in more people being subjected to the traumatising practice.
The UK government first promised to outlaw the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy in 2018. Almost three years on, no legislation has been brought forward.
In that time, the UK government has repeatedly kicked the can down the road, claiming that more research was needed before legislation could be tabled.
In 2018, the government launched a public consultation on proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which would have simplified the process of legal gender recognition for trans people.
The results of that consultation weren’t announced until September 2020, which showed broad support for reform. Days later, the government announced that it was scrapping plans to reform the GRA.
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