Scottish Government says planned conversion therapy ban will not criminalise caregivers for ‘parental controls’

The proposed ban would mean that, finally, engaging in conversion practice in Scotland is a criminal offence. (Getty Images)

The Scottish Government have insisted that its planned conversion therapy ban will not criminalise caregivers or parents for instilling “parental controls”. 

Plans to ban the abhorrent practice were published by government ministers on 9 January in the hopes of passing the bill during the current parliamentary term.

The proposal document defines conversion practices as those where there is “a purpose or intention to change or suppress another individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity”.

The 86-page-long paper shares examples of “types of acts that could be motivated by an intention to suppress another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity”.

This includes prescribing medication to suppress a person’s sex drive, therapy or counselling that encourages someone not to act on their same-sex attraction including through celibacy, restricting where a person goes and who they see and controlling someone’s appearance. 

It would mean that, finally, engaging in conversion practice in Scotland is a criminal offence

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However, the government said prosecutors would need to prove that the offender “did so with the intention that the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim would be changed or suppressed”.

Prosecutors would have to prove that “either the provision of a service or coercive course of behaviour took place”.

It would also be a crime to remove someone from Scotland with the intention of engaging in conversion practices elsewhere, even if conversion practices never took place.

In light of the proposed ban, a spokesperson for the government was asked on 17 January whether the legislation would criminalise parents or caregivers who don’t allow their child to dress in a way which matches their gender identity, or begin hormone therapy.

“The proposals don’t prevent guidance, advice, questioning or making decisions about a child’s welfare that are not harmful or coercive,” the spokesperson said, as per The Scotland Herald.

The official added: “We are not intending to get into that space where parents are guiding, advising, supporting children in these processes.

“Again, there’s also this defence about reasonableness in the circumstances that would be arguable in these situations where parents might be concerned, taking normal parental decisions around the child.”

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