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Government to Delay Ban on Conversion Therapy

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Rishi Sunak is set to delay plans to ban conversion therapy in the UK following discussions around how the legislation would be worded have been left unresolved. The decision comes just a few months after ministers promised that a bill would be published to solve the issue in November.

Conversion therapy legislation

The proposed bill would have banned people from trying to change a child’s gender identity or sexuality with a spokesperson from the Government’s Equality Hub saying in July that the 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 for pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee 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.”

However, the Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt has now indicated that the bill wouldn’t be forthcoming when she refused to confirm that the bill was still on schedule to be published in November. When questioned directly on the bill, Mordaunt deflected and said “further business will be announced in the usual way, but I understand the concern that Members across the House have and want to see action taken on this matter.” She did, however, concede that conversion therapies are “abhorrent.”

Why the hold-up?

The possibility of conversion therapy being banned in the UK was first brought into the House of Commons five years ago when former Prime Minister Theresa May promised to put an end to it once and for all with a piece of legislation. Since then, there have been three Prime Ministers and while each of them committed to the policy, none of them have done anything to make it a reality. Boris Johnson even tried to ditch it before performing a U-turn after his plans were exposed by the media.

For many, the idea of banning conversion therapy is a no-brainer but the issue is around the wording and format of the ban. The first factor is around stopping therapists and religious leaders from trying to “turn” gay people straight. The second is about stopping people from attempting to persuade a child against changing their gender. While the first factor is something that could be pushed through relatively easily, the second is a little more complex as it could result in figures such as teachers and doctors ending up in court for having conversations with children about the matter. There is also debate about whether children should be allowed to make such a big decision about their lives before adulthood. These issues have ultimately meant that a resolution is no longer in sight.

Responses

The news has not gone down well with both campaigners and opposing parties. The Chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition, Jayne Ozanne said “I am extremely angry that the government has continued to promise action, but has consistently delivered only obfuscation and delay. Whilst the prime minister has been on his summer break, I fear that many young LGBT+ people will have been sent to summer camps, where they will have been subjected to a range of conversion practices, particularly in religious settings”.

“It would seem that this government has no intention of protecting them and cannot be trusted to deliver on their promises. To be aware of harm, to have the power to protect and to choose to do nothing is a total moral failing” Ozanne continued.

Meanwhile, Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities in the UK took to the social media platform, X, to say “over five years and four Prime Ministers have passed since the Conservatives first promised to ban conversion practices. This is yet another example of a do-nothing zombie Conservative Government that is holding Britain back. Labour will ban conversion therapy in full.”

Final thought

The delay in banning conversion therapy in the UK is a disappointing setback for the LGBT+ community and their allies. It is unacceptable that the government has failed to take action on this issue for over five years, despite repeated promises from multiple prime ministers. The complexity of the issue around the wording and format of the ban is no excuse for the lack of progress, and it is clear that the government is not prioritising the protection of LGBT+ individuals, particularly children, from harmful conversion practices.

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