Promotion of conversion therapy to children could be banned under change to Online Safety Bill

Alicia Kearns in a pink shirt and in front of a grey background

Posts advertising and promoting vile, so-called conversion therapy to children could be banned if an amendment to the Tory government’s Online Safety Bill goes ahead. 

Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, has put forward an amendment which would ban the advertising and promotion of conversion therapy to those who are under 18-years-old.

The amendment – which would come under Clause 11: Safety duties protecting children – reads: “Content which advertises or promotes the practice of so-called conversion therapy of LGBTQ+ individuals must be considered as harmful for the purposes of this action.”

A copy of the document shows that the amendment has cross-party support, including backing from four select committee chairs. 

Jayne Ozanne, a queer Christian campaigner, chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition and former government equalities advisor, praised Ms Kearns for putting the amendment forward.

She told PinkNews: “I am very grateful to Alicia Kearns for her unswerving commitment to ensuring we ban harmful conversion practices in all their forms. This amendment will significantly help protect vulnerable LGBT+ individuals from being preyed on by perpetrators. 

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“I just can’t understand why the minister for women and equalities hasn’t tabled this amendment herself, and why she is causing such a delay with bringing forward the long-awaited legislation to ban these abusive practices.”

This revision in the bill comes more than four and half years after the UK government promised to stamp out the barbaric practice, with no complete ban in force yet. 

Last year, the Tory government under Boris Johnson made a U-turn on its plans to entirely scrap conversion therapy. It would eventually bow to public pressure and U-turn on the U-turn, instead announcing that a ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual conversion therapy would go ahead, while trans conversion therapy would not be banned. 

LGBTQ+ people demonstrate outside Downing Street in a protest the government’s decision to exclude trans people in a conversion therapy ban. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

If passed, the Online Safety Bill would bring a new set of laws into force which would aim to protect children and adults online, as well as make social media companies more responsible for users’ safety while on their platforms. 

The bill is currently in the House of Commons report stage of the bill passage process, which will see MPs discuss the legislation in parliament next Tuesday (January 17). 

This sitting will give MPs the opportunity to suggest further amendments and new clauses which they believe should be added. 

The bill has been also been called ‘porn block’ due to the fact the legislation could see porn websites in Britain require age verification in order to access content. 

To keep under-18s away from porn sites, users may have to provide personal data such as their credit card or passport details to prove they are over 18.

In February 2022, PinkNews reported that while some sex work activists and experts welcomed measures to “ensure adult consensual engagement with commercial sex websites”, others argue that improving sex and relationships education would be a more meaningful way of reducing harms faced by children.

PinkNews has approached Ms Kearns for comment.

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