Tory government’s conversion therapy ban will allow ‘majority of abuse to continue’, activists warn
Britain’s top LGBT+ rights activists have slammed minister for women and equalities Liz Truss for “falling short” on the government’s conversion therapy ban.
Earlier this month, the Conservative government threw yet another wrench into the long-sought ban on the dangerous and discredited practise – extending its consultation on it by a further eight weeks.
The consultation was intended to run for six weeks to gauge public opinion on the specifics of legislating the ban with the aim of bringing a draft to parliament by Spring 2022.
Now Ban Conversion Therapy, a coalition of queer campaigners, faith leaders and mental health practitioners, have written to Truss, slamming the proposals as “falling short”.
Conversion therapy has been rejected by every major medical and mental health body in Britain and beyond. The widely panned practice has, in the past, included severe methods like castration and electroshock therapy.
Britain’s conversion therapy ban is shot with ‘loopholes’, say campaigners
“Governments around the world are moving to ban conversion practices comprehensively, without loopholes, with the urgency that this abhorrent abuse requires,” the letter, seen by PinkNews and dated Thursday (16 December), reads.
“Yet, the UK’s proposals include the notion of ‘informed consent’ within the context of the ban on conversion practices, which many view as ‘flawed’.”
Indeed, Jayne Ozanne, a gay evangelical and a former LGBT+ government adviser who chairs the collective, drew comparisons to Canada, France and Germany’s more robust conversion therapy bans.
In a stunning display of unity, both Canada and France’s lawmakers emphatically voted to put an end to barbaric conversion therapy. Unlike Britain, however, both nations’ legislation does not provide “informed consent” to allow conversion therapy to go on.
“The current proposals fall far short of even the current best international practise,” Ozanne continued, “particularly as they create such significant loopholes that will allow the majority of this demeaning abuse to continue.
“We, therefore, risk undermining our credibility on the international stage and questions will be asked about the UK government’s commitment to fully protecting its LGBTQIA+ citizens.”
The government’s first draft of a conversion therapy ban was met with a buzzsaw of opposition from LGBT+ campaigners.
Some three years since the ruling party at long last pledged to outlaw it, ministers said they will work to prohibit conversion therapy of all kinds in England and Wales for anyone under the age of 18, and adults who are vulnerable and unable to consent.
But activists raised the alarm at a “loophole” for “religious counselling”. In effect, it allows for people to “consent” to the approach and does not quite close the gap on faith-based conversion therapy.
This was not surprising, some campaigners said, given that, during evidence sessions, senior figures from the Evangelical Alliance, which represents 3,500 churches across Britain, have been present.
Writing on her website ViaMedia on Friday (17 December), Ozanne tore into Christian groups such as the alliance for calling on prime minister Boris Johnson to ditch a blanket ban.
Such groups, Ozanne said, are “dangerous” and “fail to recognise the millions of faithful Christians around the world who disagree with them”.
At least two per cent of LGBT+ Britons have undergone conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, according to 2018 findings by the Government Equalities Office.
Of them, 51 per cent had it conducted by faith groups, according to the government’s own National LGBT Survey.
Ozanne and the letter’s other signatories, which includes bosses of Mermaids, Stonewall and Galop, urged the government to ease fears of yet more dither and delay from the government. It must vow to stick to its Spring 2022 promise and have it in the books by the end of next year.
“It has been over three years since the UK government committed to banning conversion practices,” the letter states.
“Victims and survivors of conversion practices have waited too long for the UK government to act to end this abhorrent abuse.
“Tragically, it is always LGBTQIA+ people – victims and survivors of conversion practices – who pay the price for the constant delays of the UK government to act to end this abuse.
“That is why we cannot afford any further delay.”
An Equality Hub spokesperson told PinkNews: “The Government is committed to banning the practice of conversion therapy in the UK and has been consistently clear it will meet the Spring 2022 timeline.
“When announcing the extension, the Government maintained its commitment to prepare legislation for Spring 2022 and introduce this as soon as Parliamentary time allows.”
“Our proposals strengthen existing provisions and introduce an offence which together protects under 18s from all forms of conversion therapy. They would also protect any adults unwillingly subjected to this abhorrent practice.
“The ban would make consent requirements for adults more robust than they ever have been before.
“Organisations offering talking conversion therapies to adults would be required to inform people that there is no evidence that these therapies work, and are associated negative mental health outcomes.”
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