The Queen says that the UK will seek to ban conversion therapy but the announcement of more consultations and a lack of details have infuriated LGBTQ+ activists.
On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth delivered her speech outlining the government’s legislative plans at the opening of Parliament in London.
It had been anticipated that she would confirm details of the long-promised ban on conversion therapy. The Queen, however, only said that “Measures will be brought forward to address racial and ethnic disparities and ban conversion therapy.”
Following the Queen’s Speech, the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, confirmed that the government plans to take legislative steps to ban conversion therapy but only after a “consultation” process.
“The accompanying consultation will seek further views from the public and key stakeholders to ensure that the ban can address the practice while protecting the medical profession; defending freedom of speech; and upholding religious freedom,” said Truss.
Theresa May’s government first proposed the ban in 2018, stating that it “will consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy,” but little progress has been made.
LGBTQ+ and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell welcomed the Queen’s announcement but condemned the “further delay, lack of clarity and absence of a timetable for the ban.”
He said: “The government has been promising this ban for nearly three years and still we don’t have it. 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.”
Tatchell insisted that the legislation cannot allow any religious exemptions. “Faith bodies are the main proponents. The ban needs to be full and comprehensive and provide statutory support for victims and survivors,” he said.
Conversion therapy (sometimes called reparative therapy) is offered by certain therapists and religious counsellors in a misguided attempt to change sexual orientation or gender identity in individuals.
The World Psychiatric Association and many other mental health bodies, including the Psychological Society of South Africa, have asserted that conversion therapy is dangerous and unethical. Despite this, this form of pseudoscientific or religious treatment has been used on LGBTQ+ people for decades and is still being used today.
Nancy Kelley, CEO of LGBTQ+ UK charity Stonewall, agreed that “the news of a consultation is concerning and will be hard for our communities to hear. 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 added” “The UK Government must publish a comprehensive bill now, as well as a clear timeline for its implementation. As part of the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition, we will continue to hold the UK Government to account on their promise to ban this abhorrent practice for good, everywhere it happens and to everyone it harms, and protect our communities from harm.”
Conversion therapy for minors is banned in a handful of countries and regions, including Germany, but is not expressly outlawed in South Africa.