MPs condemn government over conversion therapy ‘betrayal’ as ban is reportedly scrapped

Rishi Sunak pictured leaving No 10 Downing Street on the left wearing a white shirt, a blue tie and a navy suit. On the right Labour's Anneliese Dodds is pictured wearing a blue jacket and speaking to reporters.

Shadow women and equalities minister Anneliese Dodds has accused the government of “betrayal” after reports suggested Rishi Sunak is set to scrap a long-awaited conversion therapy ban.

Theresa May first promised to outlaw the harmful practice five years ago, but the Tories have never advanced legislation to prohibit it.

After months of internal wrangling, it has now been reported that the prime minister will shelve the conversion therapy ban entirely because similar laws have “proven problematic or ineffective in other countries”.

Officials are now reportedly working on “draft guidance” instead, which would “highlight existing laws that the government believes already criminalise several aspects of conversion therapy”.

In a statement, Dodds again promised that Labour would ban conversion therapy if elected to government and condemned the Tories for their inaction.

“Dropping the ban on so-called conversion therapy would be yet another broken promise from the Conservatives and a betrayal of those at risk of these abusive practices,” Dodds said.

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Anneliese Dodds Labour
Anneliese Dodds is shadow women and equalities minister. (Ian Forsyth/Getty)

“The risible failure to outlaw this abuse shows this zombie government is completely out of ideas, and lacks the political will to deliver any meaningful change whatsoever.”

“Labour would ban conversion therapy in full and give LGBT+ people hope for the future,” she added.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome also hit out at the government, saying they’ve left LGBTQ+ people “in vain” while members of their community are put through “horrific abuse”.

“Combined with Conservative MPs and their cheerleaders in the right-wing press stepping up their demonisation of trans people, it is as clear as day that this government is not on our side,” Whittome said.

Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow, said the reports prove that the government “don’t care about LGBTQ+ people”.

“This is a complete dereliction of duty by government, refusing to protect vulnerable people from harm, allowing coerce consent and this barbaric practice to continue.

“We must have a full ban on conversion therapy that protects the entire LGBTQI+ community – with no religious exemptions and no loopholes at all.”

A protester holds a placard calling on the government to keep their conversion therapy ban promise during the rally outside St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square.
A protester holds a placard calling on the government to keep their conversion therapy ban promise during the rally outside St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square. (Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty)

The government was unable to provide an update on whether the legislation is still likely to be brought forward.

A spokesperson said: “No one in this country should be harmed or harassed for who they are and attempts at so-called ‘conversion therapy’ are abhorrent. That is why we are carefully considering this very complex issue.”

Tories have dragged their heels on conversion therapy for five years

Reports that the government is now preparing to scrap a conversion therapy ban are just the latest chapter in a long saga that began five years ago when Theresa May first pledged to outlaw the practice, which has been described as a form of torture by a United Nations expert.

Plans for a legislative ban on the practice – which attempts to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity – quickly faded into the background when Boris Johnson became prime minister. At one point, he apparently decided to scrap the ban entirely, but quickly backtracked in the face of resounding backlash and instead said the government would push ahead, but leaving trans people out of the ban.

Finally, ITV News reported in June that a long-awaited draft conversion therapy bill was on Rishi Sunak’s desk and waiting for final sign-off in June – but if recent reports prove correct, it looks as though the prime minister wasn’t in favour of the bill.

Campaigners who have spent years fighting for the practice to be banned have shared their anger and dismay at the news that the ban may now be scrapped.

Jayne Ozanne, chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition and director of the Ozanne Foundation, said Sunak’s government will go down in history “as the most anti-LGBT government in a generation”.

“It will take as long for LGBT+ people and our allies to trust them again – broken promises always lead to broke trust, which sadly leads to lives endangered and even tragically lost,” she said.