Boris Johnson slammed for ‘despicable betrayal’ after dropping conversion therapy ban

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has been slammed by LGBT+ and human rights campaigners for his “despicable betrayal” of the LGBT+ community after he scrapped plans to ban conversion therapy.

On Thursday, 31 March, an official briefing leaked by ITV News showed that the government was U-turning on its promised conversion therapy ban, which it has been making since Theresa May first promised to outlaw the practice in 2018.

Confirming that the leak was accurate, Number 10 told PinkNews: “Having explored this sensitive issue in great depth the government has decided to proceed by reviewing how existing law can be deployed more effectively to prevent this in the quickest way possible, and explore the use of other non-legislative measures.”

The leaked briefing predicted that there would be a “noisy backlash from LGBT groups and some parliamentarians when we announce we do not intend to proceed”, and that prediction has come true.

Responding to the news, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This is a despicable and outrageous betrayal of the LGBT+ community. The Government promised a conversion therapy ban nearly four years ago and reiterated this commitment in the Queen’s Speech last year.

“We feel lied to and tricked. The prime minister seemingly prefers to appease the religious homophobes who practice abusive and harmful conversion therapy, rather than protect the welfare and human rights of vulnerable LGBT [people].

“This is another broken promise by the government. It’s more proof that Boris Johnson cannot be trusted. This looks like another bid by the prime minister to stoke culture wars for political gain in the run-up to the next election.”

The leak by ITV News revealed that the decision was made by Johnson without consulting other government officials who had promised a ban, and that even Liz Truss, minister for women and equalities, was unaware that the conversion therapy ban would be ditched.

“While Liz is not ideologically committed to the legislation she is likely to be concerned about owning the new position, having personally committed to delivering the bill”, it read.

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said: “After years of delay, in which LGBTQ+ people across the UK have continued to suffer as a consequence of conversion practices, it is devastating to hear that the UK government is again breaking its promise to our communities and walking away from its commitment to end conversion therapy.

“Conversion practices cause extreme and often lifelong distress to LGBTQ+ people. Countries around the world are acting to ban this homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse, and it is shameful that the UK government is not amongst them.”

Kelley remained hopeful that Wales and Scotland would “make good their promises to end conversion practices in their own jurisdictions”, adding: “LGBTQ+ people in the UK deserve better than this.”

Trans rights organisation Gendered Intelligence said it was “utterly dismayed” at the news.

“For years we have campaigned, fighting tooth and claw to have these abhorrent and outdated practices banned,” a spokesperson said.

“We have watched other countries pass us by, to the point that our record on LGBT+ rights is internationally condemned. And now, after countless reassurances that legislation will be passed, after endless negotiations to ensure all the community is properly protected, these documents suggest that the government intends to cast aside the millions of LGBTQ+ people who depend on them.”

As well as campaigners, MPs slammed Johnson’s betrayal of LGBT+ folk.

Shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds tweeted: “This outrageous decision shows you simply can’t trust a word Boris Johnson says.

“A government that believes conversion therapy is acceptable in 21st century Britain is no friend of the LGBT+ community.

“Labour will never abandon the fight to ban this insidious practice forever.”

Gay MP Stephen Doughty added: “Despicable and outrageous decision on conversion therapy – and tells you all you need to know about the kind of government and PM we have.

“Some of us simply don’t matter to them. Our lives and experiences are of less worth. We’re just political fodder.”