Ministers must quickly ban LGBT+ conversion therapy

Ministers must quickly ban LGBT+ conversion therapy

Campaigners have accused the government of not moving quickly enough towards banning LGBT+ “conversion therapy” in England and Wales.

MPs from across the political spectrum called during a Westminster debate for the practice to be made illegal.

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said the government was “committed” to “ending” it, and took the issue “very seriously”.

But equality campaigners and some MPs said targeted action was needed.

“Conversion therapy” refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation, ranging from electric shock treatment to religious teaching and discussion.

The practice is already outlawed in Switzerland and parts of Australia, Canada and the US.

MPs from across the political spectrum backed a similar ban for England and Wales during a debate in Parliament’s Westminster Hall, prompted by a petition signed by more than 250,000 people.

They called on the government to produce a timeline for legislation.

Former Scotland Secretary David Mundell – the Conservative Party’s first openly gay cabinet minister – said conversion therapy “could not be tolerated”.

He added the government had “given the impression of being tardy” and now was “the time to end that impression”.

Several MPs spoke of LGBT+ people who had been “left with scars” from the experience – with some taking their own lives.

Some had been told to starve themselves, been strapped to wooden chairs and been given electric shocks, while being gay had been referred to as the “the deceit of Satan”.

The SNP’s Hannah Bardell said a friend of hers had revealed their experience of the practice, which led them to attempting suicide at the age of 12.

Labour’s Angela Eagle called conversion therapy “medieval”, “degrading” and “dehumanising”.

And Tory MP Elliot Colburn said: “With every day that passes, there is another person at risk at being subject to this degrading treatment and we risk losing even more lives of people who feel there is no other way out.”

The petition which prompted the debate said running conversion therapy treatments should be made a criminal offence, as well as forcing people to attend or sending them abroad for them.

Boris Johnson said in July that the practice was “absolutely abhorrent” and that plans for a “ban” would be brought forward.

The government commissioned research into the ban – which was first proposed by Theresa May in 2018 – but ministers have yet to publish details.

Responding to the Westminster Hall debate, Ms Badenoch said: “I want to assure you that we are committed to ending conversion therapy in the UK and we take this issue very seriously.

“This practice has no place in civilised society”.

A “robust criminal law framework” was in place to deal with the worst examples, the minister said, adding that people could face charges such as rape or grievous bodily harm in some cases.

But Ms Badenoch said the government did not want to stop those who “seek spiritual counselling as they explore their sexual orientation”.

Afterwards, the Ozanne Foundation, which campaigns against discrimination based on sexuality, said: “The UK government has constantly dragged its feet on taking any meaningful action, allowing perpetrators to flourish during their continued silence.

“The response from the minister told us nothing new.”

It added that there could be “no hope of ending conversion therapy without a ban”.

And Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said it was “very disappointing to have so little movement from government, with no clear pathway to a ban or timescale for implementation”.

Leave a Reply