Campaigners have called on the Government to hasten efforts to ban conversion therapy, accusing it of not tackling the issue fast enough. In a debate at Westminster on Monday MPs urged for conversion therapy – previously called “absolutely abhorrent” by Prime Minister Boris Johnson – to be made illegal.
During the debate on Monday, Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said the government was “committed” to “ending” conversion therapy, and took the issue “very seriously”.
However, both campaigners and MPs have said more is needed to tackle the practice which has seriously impacted thousands of people.
Monday’s debate was triggered following a petition for a ban in England and Wales signed by more than 250,000 people.
Tory MP Elliot Colburn said: “With every day that passes, there is another person at risk at being subject to this degrading treatment and we risk losing even more lives of people who feel there is no other way out.”
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The Ban Conversion Therapy campaign (a coalition of LGBTQ groups including Stonewall, Mermaids and Galop) has accused the Government of “dragging its feet” when it comes to banning the practice.
Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive of LGBTQ rights organisation Stonewall said: ”Being LGBTQIA+ is beautiful, and there is no place in our society for any so-called ‘interventions’ which tell us otherwise.
“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.”
In Monday’s debate, several MPs spoke of LGBTQ+ people who had suffered due to the practice.
Those subjected to conversion therapy had been “left with scars”, told to starve themselves and even been told being gay was “deceit of Satan”.
Labour MP Angela Eagle called conversion therapy “medieval”, “degrading” and “dehumanising”.
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Where is conversion therapy banned?
Currently, only four countries have outright banned the practice – Brazil, Ecuador, Germany and Malta.
The United States, Australia, Canada and Spain have regional laws preventing conversion therapy in some areas of the country.
In Switzerland, conversion therapy cases are looked at on an individual basis by criminal courts to determine whether there has been a criminal offence committed.
And Argentina, Uruguay, Samoa, Fiji and Naura have indirectly banned the practice.
What’s next for the UK?
In response to the Westminster Hall debate, Ms Badenoch said: “I want to assure you that we are committed to ending conversion therapy in the UK and we take this issue very seriously.
“This practice has no place in civilised society”.
Ms Badenoch said a “robust criminal law framework” is in place to tackle the worst cases, with charges such as rape or grievous bodily harm.
However, she added the Government did not want to stop people from seeking “spiritual counselling as they explore their sexual orientation”.
The Ozanne Foundation, which campaigns against discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity, said: “The UK government has constantly dragged its feet on taking any meaningful action, allowing perpetrators to flourish during their continued silence.
“The response from the minister told us nothing new.”
The foundation added there could be “no hope of ending conversion therapy without a ban”.
Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said it was “very disappointing to have so little movement from government, with no clear pathway to a ban or timescale for implementation”.
Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans free any time on 116 123 or email [email protected]
You can also contact MindOut, an LGBTQ+ mental health service if you need support. You can find MindOut here.