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Conversion therapy: Government commits to introducing legislation to ban ‘abhorrent’ practice

Written by on 11 May 2021

The government has committed to introducing legislation to ban conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity.

Women and equalities minister Liz Truss said ministers want to end the “coercive and abhorrent” practice in England and Wales.

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File photo dated 22/09/2020 of International Development Secretary Liz Truss who has suggested more of the most vulnerable members of the public could die if teachers are moved up the vaccination priority list. Issue date: Sunday January 31, 2021. Image: Liz Truss said the government has always been committed to banning conversion therapy

“As a global leader on LGBT rights, this government has always been committed to stamping out the practice of conversion therapy,” Ms Truss 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.”

The move was announced in the Queen’s Speech.

Before legislation is introduced, a public consultation on the government’s plans will take place.

According to the Government Equalities Office, this will be aimed at ensuring the ban ends the practice while at the same time protecting the medical profession, defending freedom of speech and upholding religious freedom.

In a briefing note sent out by Downing Street, the government said it will make sure that any action it takes is “proportionate and effective” and “does not have unintended consequences”.

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The prime minister’s spokesman said the government was not setting a “specific” timetable for the consultation, but did want it to be “short and prompt”.

“It is vital we seek further views from the public and key stakeholders to ensure the ban can address abhorrent and coercive practices whilst protecting the medical profession, defending freedom of speech and upholding religious freedom,” he said.

“We know there are still those who want to express their views on what is an extremely complicated topic, so that’s why it is right to launch a short consultation so that everyone can have their voices heard.”

Asked to comment on a warning from Jayne Ozanne, a former LGBTQ adviser, that there is a risk of a “highly dangerous loophole” being created if the government focuses only on “coercive practices”, the spokesman replied: “I disagree. We want to work with key stakeholders to inform proposals so we can put an end to this practice.”

Nancy Kelley, chief executive at the charity Stonewall, said it was “concerning” that there would be a consultation first.

“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,” she said.

The government said research has been commissioned into the scope of the practice and the experiences of those who have been subjected to conversion therapy.

A victim support package will also be provided, the first time the government has offered such support.

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Organisations will get the chance to bid to develop such a package, with the expectation that the provider will be chosen by this summer.

The government has come under pressure to ban conversion therapy, with three LGBT advisers resigning in protest over what they viewed as undue delay in ministers taking action.

Ms Ozanne accused ministers of “dragging their feet” over a ban in an interview with Sky News.

Boris Johnson said earlier this year that ending the practice was “technically complex”, but insisted his government would “stamp it out”.