MPs and experts slam government for ongoing conversion therapy ban delay: ‘A moral failing’

Protester in crowd holds up a sign that reads "No more loopholes! Ban conversion therapy!"

MPs, medical professionals, human rights activists and the chair of Stonewall have slammed the government over ongoing delays to a full conversion therapy ban, calling it a “moral failing”. 

After around five years of delays since a ban was first proposed, draft legislation is said to be ready and awaiting final sign-off from prime minister Rishi Sunak.

The draft bill will reportedly protect LGBTQ+ people from so-called conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity. However, activists have expressed concern that the bill could contain a loophole for “consenting adults”. 

The bill had reportedly been expected ahead of the upcoming summer recess, after it was announced in January that a draft would be “published shortly” and later that it would be published “in the spring”. 

An open letter to Sunak signed by MPs including Caroline Nokes, Crispin Blunt and Ben Bradshaw has criticised yet more delays which could see a draft of the bill pushed to autumn.

Two people hold up signs calling on the UK government to ban conversion practices
A protester holds a sign urging the Tory government to ‘keep your promise’ and ban ‘conversion abuse’. (Getty Images)

The letter, also signed by Stonewall chair Iain Anderson and chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition Jayne Ozanne, blasted the government’s “continued failure” to pass a ban on the practice. 

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“Not only has the delay damaged the lives of countless vulnerable LGBT+ victims, it has also emboldened perpetrators to act with impunity,” it states.

“In the five years since the UK government announced its positive intention to end these abusive practices, many other governments around the world have acted swiftly to do so. Why have we not learnt from them, but instead sought to obfuscate and delay?”

In a statement, Ozanne, who organised the letter, said: “This broad coalition of voices seeking to call out the damage to innocent LGBT+ people’s lives the ongoing delay is causing is unique.  

“I urge the prime minister to heed our concerns, not least from his own MPs, given that people’s lives are at stake. To do otherwise is totally unconscionable.”

How long has the government been promising an end to conversion therapy?

Former prime minister Theresa May first proposed a ban on conversion therapy in 2018, with Boris Johnson then making several U-turns during his leadership, first to push legislation, then drop it, then pick it up again, but without protections for trans people

The government has since changed tack to include transgender people in the potential ban.

MPs have previously slammed the government for the “unacceptable stress” caused to the LGBTQ+ community by delays to the proposed conversion therapy ban.

Labour MP Anneliese Dodds pointed out in the House of Commons that the delays had taken “longer than it took to build the Empire State Building and the Shard put together”.

“I’m afraid that’s not good enough for those LGBT people who’ve been waiting for too long,” Dodds said.

“We’ve heard from the government and its consultation on this ban – even that was almost two years ago now – that they would still allow some of the worst practitioners off the hook by including a consent loophole.”

She added that a ban should “end the charade and remove that loophole so that every LGBT person is protected.”

A Government Equality Hub spokesperson said: “This government is committed to protecting people at risk from conversion practices.

“As part of this we will publish a draft bill setting out our approach, which will be scrutinised by a joint committee of both houses in this parliamentary session. This will allow for in-depth analysis and challenge to test the policy and drafting and ensure we address any risk of unintended impacts.”

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