Government confirms conversion therapy ban that includes trans people – but adds yet more delay
The Tory government will publish a draft conversion therapy ban that will “protect everyone”, following months of outrage over trans people being excluded from proposals.
Culture secretary Michelle Donelan published a written statement on Tuesday (17 January) confirming a ban will protect “those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender”, and will apply to England and Wales.
The statement read: “We recognise the strength of feeling on the issue of harmful conversion practices and remain committed to protecting people from these practices and making sure they can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse.”
Conversion therapy refers to attempts to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity, and has been likened to torture by a UN expert.
Donelan said that the bill will face further scrutiny, despite the government having already carried out a public consultation.
“The legislation must not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender related distress, through inadvertently criminalising or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children,” Donelan said.
Donelan announcing the draft – which will arrive “shortly” – appears to confirm reports that equalities minister Kemi Badenoch will not oversee the ban. Badenoch has faced much criticism from the LGBTQ+ community over her trans-hostile statements.
It comes after then-prime minister Boris Johnson dropped plans for a legislative ban in March 2022, only to U-turn by moving ahead with a ban that would protect LGB people only.
The Conservative government first promised a conversion therapy ban in 2018 under Theresa May’s leadership.
The latest announcement was met with a cautious response owing to the government’s continued flip-flopping on the ban, and in light of its latest attack on LGBTQ+ rights – its move to block Scotland’s gender recognition reform.
Conversion therapy survivor, campaigner and former government adviser Jayne Ozanne asked “just how much longer can the [Government Equalities Office] drag this process out?”
“Goodness,” Ozanne tweeted. “Now we’re to have pre-legislative scrutiny, which even though I’m assured it’ll be swift is still yet more delay.
“I await to see whether this will be a meaningful ban without any loopholes. Trust is very low!”
Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, welcomed the announcement, but added: “Almost five years since the UK government first promised to ban conversion practices in 2018, we have faced delay after delay.
“The UK government must publish the bill and an imminent timetable as soon as possible.
“The UK government’s own National LGBT Survey shows that 13 per cent of trans people, and seven per cent of all LGBTQIA+ people have undergone or been offered so-called conversion therapy. Our communities simply cannot face any further delays.”
The government’s own research, published in 2018, found that faith groups are the most common culprits of conversion therapy.
In a previous incarnation, the government’s proposals had loopholes for “praying the gay away”, and to allow “consenting” adults to submit to the practice, despite experts saying that consenting to conversion therapy is not possible. It remains unclear whether these loopholes will be carried over.
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