A coalition of LGBT+ groups, mental health practitioners and faith communities have demanded Boris Johnson’s government “stop dragging its feet” and urgently legislate to ban the discredited practice of conversion therapy.
Almost 1,000 days since the Conservatives first vowed to end the “abhorrent” practice, which seeks to change and suppress an individual’s sexuality or gender identity, campaigners said the government must now “make good” on the promise.
Former prime minister Theresa May pledged to eradicate conversion therapies in July 2018 and Mr Johnson gave his support to a ban last summer, stressing it “has no place in a civilised society, and has no place in this country”.
Despite ministers’ assurances, however, the government is yet to publish any proposals on banning so-called “gay cures”, or even a date for when legislation could be introduced in the House of Commons.
Chief executive of the Stonewall charity Nancy Kelly said: “The UK government must stop dragging its feet and make good on its promise to bring in a full legal ban, and put a stop to conversion therapy in the UK for good.”
“Being LGBTQIA+ is beautiful, and there is no place in our society for any so-called ‘interventions’ which tells us otherwise.”
Stonewall — alongside mental health practitioners and faith communities — said that while many consider conversion therapies to be a thing of the past, “it is still happening in the UK today, putting lesbian, gay, bi and trans people at risk of lifelong trauma”.
In 2018, the government’s national LGBT+ survey found that five per cent of respondents had been offered the widely discredited therapy by a range of organisations, including healthcare providers, while 2,160 had undergone it.
Jayne Ozanne, the director of the Ozanne Foundation and member of the government’s LGBT advisory panel, said: “It’s been nearly one thousand days since the UK government committed to end conversion therapy, but lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in the UK today are still being subjected to this abusive practice often, sadly, in religious settings.
“It’s time for the government to take action and ensure a comprehensive ban that fully protects all”.
Dr Igi Moon, the chair of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on conversion therapy, which has been signed by many leading health bodies, added: “All practitioners who want to work competently with LGBTA people of all ages, and to provide them with a safe and respectful environment in which they can explore who they are without judgement or fear, will support this campaign in bringing an end to conversion therapy”.
Matthew Hyndman — co-founder of the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign — said: “LGBTQIA+ people don’t need to be ‘cured’ or change who we are, any intervention claiming to do this is untruthful, unethical, and preys on those of us who are in most need of support and community.”
The united call from the organisations comes after No 10 was urged by the influential Commons liaison committee to “prioritise” previous policy commitments, including conversion therapy, ahead of the next Queen's speech.
Bernard Jenkin, who chairs the committee, said in a letter that while the government’s attention has “understandably” been focused on handling the coronavirus pandemic, it was not vital to bring forward legislation on issues which the government has promised to address.
The issue is set to be the subject of a Westminster Hall debate next week after a petition calling for the practice to made illegal attracted over 250,000 signatures. The government is expected to send a minister to respond to the petition.
A government Equality Hub spokesperson told The Independent: “Conversion therapy is an abhorrent practice that this government will take action on to stop. We will outline plans to end conversion therapy practices in due course.”