Comment: The government is wrong not to ban gay ‘cure’ therapy

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Writing for, Labour MP Sandra Osborne strongly criticises yesterday’s decision of Health Minister Norman Lamb to rule out statutory regulation of psychotherapists in order to prevent them from being able to provide gay-to-straight conversion therapy.

I’m afraid Norman Lamb’s measures fall far short of what is needed to address this heinous, harmful practice. There are several things he should have said, but didn’t. Gay conversion therapy belongs in the history books.

First, he should have committed to properly-regulating the psychotherapy sector to ensure that nobody in Britain could call themselves a psychotherapist without being registered with a professional body. Instead he ruled this out on cost grounds. He said little about ensuring effective complaints procedures are in place and refused even to commit to Practitioner Full Disclosure (PFD) – which would at least legally require therapists to make public their full professional background so patients could make a proper choice about their suitability to offer therapy.

Second, he should have committed to banning conversion therapy for – at the very least – under-18s, and restricting advertisements on the practice. He said nothing on this.

Third, he should have made it absolutely clear that the Public Sector Equality Duty – which mandates the public sector to proactively drive up standards in public services – was safe under this government; and that their on-going review wouldn’t seek to repeal it or water it down. He did no such thing.

By summer next year, the first gay couples in Britain will be saying their marriage vows. This is a momentous, hard fought-for achievement for LGBT rights and we should rightly celebrate it. But we should never forget those LGBT people in Britain who still suffer abuse, exclusion and a poor quality of care – in schools, hospitals, clinics and even in their homes. Gay marriage will help these people, but we need something more.

We need a government that is committed to tackling these deeper forces underpinning LGBT inequalities buy making our public services truly responsive to the specific needs of sexual and ethnic minorities and women. Gay conversion therapy is just one aspect of this wider problem we have: some medical professionals just don’t know what to do if a gay person comes to their clinic expressing an uneasiness about their sexuality.

I think that now that marriage has been achieved, the key battle in the 2015 election will be over public services: how do we ensure LGBT people get the best possible care and aren’t forwarded on to undergo treatment that will make them feel one hundred times worse? I am confident that Labour in 2015 will have a clear plan for public services. But by failing to act on conversion therapy, the Coalition risk staining their record on LGBT rights.”

Sandra Osborne is the Labour MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock.