The UK is moving closer to a ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy after the government launched a “consultation” on how best to make it illegal.
In May, Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, announced her intention to introduce a legislative ban on conversion therapy, a dangerous and discredited practice that seeks to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
On Thursday, she launched a six-week consultation on how to legislate for the ban, describing it as “the next step in that process.” The government’s current proposals to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales include:
- Ensuring physical conversion therapy acts are sentenced appropriately and introducing a new offence for so-called “talking” conversion therapies
- Ensuring those found guilty of conversion therapy offences have any profit they obtained from those crimes removed, and strengthening the case for individuals to be disqualified from holding a senior role in a charity where they are convicted of a conversion therapy offence
- Introducing Conversion Therapy Protection Orders to protect potential victims from undergoing the practice, including abroad – this could include removing passports of potential victims, who are at risk of being taken overseas for conversion therapy
- Exploring further measures to prevent the promotion of conversion therapy
The government said it “would like to hear from everyone with an opinion on how we should introduce the ban” and urged “those with an interest and particularly those with experience of conversion therapy to come forward.”
Once the consultation has closed, the responses will inform further refinements to the proposals. The government intends to prepare and introduce the legislation in the first half of 2022.
“There should be no place for the abhorrent practice of coercive conversion therapy in our society,” said Truss in a statement. “As we build back better from the pandemic, I want everyone to be able to love who they want and be themselves. Today’s announcement sets out how we will ban an archaic practice that has no place in modern life.”
Activists have welcomed the government’s move but expressed concerns about possible loopholes or limitations in the proposed ban, including a religious exemption clause of some kind.
It’s understood that the ban is likely to only restrict providing conversion therapy to those under the age of 18 or “vulnerable” adults who may not be in a position to consent. “We do not intend to ban adults from seeking such counselling freely, but consent requirements will be robust and stringent,” said the government.
LGBTQ rights group, Stonewall, commented, however, that it won’t support the proposals if they allow for people to ‘consent’ to conversion therapy. “A practice that is abusive cannot be consented to. If we are to truly put this shameful practice behind us, the ban must not allow for any excuses or any exemptions.”
Leni Morris, CEO of Galop, a UK support organisation for LGBTQ victims and survivors of abuse, violence and hate, applauded the proposed provisions for protection orders to help victims. “A ban must also ensure that victims fleeing their homes to escape abuse are given appropriate, safe, emergency housing,” Morris said.
Conversion therapy for minors is banned in a handful of countries and regions, including Germany and Malta. In July, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Health, Siviwe Gwarube, said she planned to submit a Private Members Bill to Parliament to prohibit conversion therapy for minors in South Africa but no further details have been announced since.