Tories warned conversion therapy ban must not have ‘loopholes or carve-outs’ ahead of draft landing

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

A much-delayed ban on conversion therapy in the UK must have no “loopholes or carve-outs”, Stonewall has warned.

After years of delays, the government has promised that draft legislation banning conversion therapy – including protection for trans people – will be published this year.

It’s believed that the draft could be arriving imminently, but there are currently no indications as to how extensive the measures will be.

Given previous U-turns on the long-promised ban, concerns remain among activists.

In 2021, the Tories announced a ban that would allow “consenting” adults to submit themselves for “professional help and guidance”, and there are fears similar loopholes could be present in the new draft.

Nancy Kelley, the chief executive of Stonewall, said a ban on the harmful practice must include all LGBTQ+ people, and allow no exceptions. 

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Kelley told Metro: “As we start celebrating Pride Month around the world, the UK government needs to urgently address its stagnation on LGBTQ+ rights, and get back on track.

“This includes the need to urgently introduce an inclusive, comprehensive and enforceable ban on all forms of conversion practices before the legislative clock runs out.

“We know that legislation will not be workable or effective if it contains loopholes or carve-outs that don’t cover all LGBTQ+ people.”

Every month that goes by without a ban means more LGBTQ+ people being abused and exposed to life-long harm, she added.

Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner and conversion therapy survivor, told PinkNews: “The UK government has promised year-on-year to ban conversion practices, and yet has consistently dragged its fee. One has to ask why?

“The answer is there are many who want to continue with these harmful practices and who have lobbied hard to try to create loopholes for their abuse to be sanctioned,” she added.

“This delay has only ever served the perpetrators, who feel emboldened by [that]. It’s high time we put victims first and listened to the hell they have endured, often by those who have meant well, but have instead caused life-long trauma.”

Years of delays on conversion therapy ban

A UK ban on conversion therapy was first promised in 2018 under Theresa May’s government, and has since faced years of delays and criticism over who the ban would protect. 

Johnson inherited this promise, with the legislation under his government facing yet more delays, and a change to push a ban that would cover conversion therapy on the basis of sexuality only.

Just weeks before the pandemic hit in 2020, Tory peer Baroness Williams told the Government Equalities Office LGBT Leadership Summit that the government was committed to ending the practice.

“LGBT people are not broken, they are not ill, they don’t need to be fixed and they don’t need to be cured,” she said. “The techniques employed by people who promote these practices are frightening and have tragic consequences in many cases. That is why the government is committed to ending [it] for good.”

Liz Truss, as equalities minister, announced plans for a ban in 2021 that contained religious exemptions.

In 2022, Boris Johnson, as prime minister abandoned plans for a legislative ban. He quickly backtracked following near-universal outrage, but said any new law wouldn’t cover trans people.

Rishi Sunak has since committed to a trans-inclusive ban, but the lack of movement has been condemned by several LGBTQ+ activist organisations and human rights groups.

Now, the government has confirmed that draft legislation will be published by the autumn, with Victor Madrigal-Borloz, a UN independent expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, confirming that he had spoken to the government about the issue. 

In his report, published on 11 May, Madrigal-Borloz said it was perplexing that the government had taken this long to draft a bill considering the “significant support” the proposed ban has among MPs.

He said the government confirmed to him that it had “finalised consultations in relation to draft legislation for England and Wales, and that it is committed to publish the draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny in the current parliamentary session (ending in autumn 2023)”.

LGBTQ+ anti-abuse charity Galop has long been campaigning for a comprehensive ban on conversion therapy, pointing out that a quarter of all young people who use its services have suffered some form of the practice.

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