When will Conversion Therapy be illegal?
There has been a lot of talk about conversion therapy recently. If you’re wondering what it is, it’s sometimes called "reparative therapy" or "gay cure therapy" and tries to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. It is widely condemned for being unethical and for the harm it can do to individuals’ mental well-being.
There has been a longstanding commitment by the UK Government to ban it, but there seems to have been very little progress.
The story so far is that following the Queen’s Speech to Parliament in May 2021 which set out the UK Government’s legislative programme, Liz Truss MP, the UK’s Minister for Women and Equalities, announced the intention to ban conversion therapy and to set up a support fund offering help to those affected by conversion therapy. She said:
“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”
That sounds great doesn’t it? So why is there controversy about the issue?
We believe that there are just too many caveats. The UK Government website which publishes the Minister’s statement says that a Bill would come forward “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. This suggests that there isn’t sufficient priority being given to legislating on the issue.
Back in 2018, while Theresa May was Prime Minister, the UK Government promised that it would be banned in its equality action plan. In March, three advisers left the LGBT Advisory Panel alleging that the UK Government was being too slow while Stonewall said that it should “stop dragging its feet”.
Another delay to the introduction to the promised legislation will be the proposed consultation. Worryingly vague, the UK Government website states that the consultation will seek further views from the public and key stakeholders to ensure that they ban conversion therapy while protecting the medical profession,; defending freedom of speech,; and upholding religious freedom. We’re not sure exactly what that means, but if there are exemptions to the ban, there will undoubtedly be uproar from the LGBTQ community and our allies.
Some readers may recall that in 2018, there was a UK-wide LGBT government survey. It is reported that about 5% of the 108,000 people who responded said they had been offered conversion therapy while 2% said they had undergone it.
Reports on the survey state that about 10% of Christian respondents and 20% of Muslims said they had undergone or been offered conversion therapy, compared to 6% with no religion. More than half said it was conducted by a faith group, while one in five received it from healthcare professionals.
In July, Dame Angela Eagle DBE MP, long-time LGBTQ+ campaigner tweeted that the UK Government “must get on with introducing an absolute ban on conversion therapy with no religious exemptions” following her contribution to the House of Commons Pride month debate. Take a minute to view her contribution courtesy of the House of Commons.
We were delighted to read on 24 June that the Llandaff Diocese tweeted “There’s no excuse. Ban Gay Conversion Therapy says @ChurchinWales Bench of Bishops”. We are taking this opportunity to publish their short statement alongside this article.
At LGBTQymru, we feel that the tide is turning on this outdated, insulting and extremely damaging practice and that public opinion is with us thanks to the tireless work of campaigners. We are impatient for change on this issue so we urge the UK Government to move with more pace and priority to make this practice illegal.