Conversion therapy ban 'will protect everyone', government says

People pictured during a demonstration outside Downing Street last April to protest against the exclusion of transgender people from a ban on conversion therapy. Credit: PA

The government is set to publish draft legislation setting out how it will ban conversion therapy for “everyone”, including transgender people. It will “shortly” publish a draft Bill detailing its proposed approach to ban conversion practices on the basis of sexuality and gender identity in England and Wales. The government previously said its plans would not cover trans people. That was because of the “complexity of issues and need for further careful thought”, the government said last May when announcing its plans for the Conversion Therapy Bill.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand breaks down what is in the legislation and how we got here

The Bill will aim to stop “abhorrent practices which do not work and cause extensive harm” and protect people’s freedom to love who they want, the government said at the time. It will only ban conversion therapy for over-18s “who do not consent and who are coerced or forced to undergo” the practices.

In a statement on Tuesday, Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “We recognise the strength of feeling on the issue of harmful conversion practices and remain committed to protecting people from these practices and making sure they can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse.”

She said it is right the issue is tackled “through a dedicated and tailored legislative approach”, adding: “The Bill will protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender.” Ms Donelan said the draft Bill will be scrutinised to help ensure the legislation does not cause “unintended consequences”. She added: “The legislation must not – through a lack of clarity – harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender-related distress through inadvertently criminalising or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children.”

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan Credit: PA

When the government initially announced its consultation into the conversion therapy ban, its “universal” proposals were intended to protect all LGBT people. Last March, ITV News was passed a leaked document which detailed Boris Johnson’s plans to quietly drop the ban, with a government spokesman saying it would look at how the existing law could be applied more effectively and explore other measures. Within hours, a furious backlash forced a hasty retreat and a senior government source was quoted as saying legislation would be included in the Queen’s Speech.

People took part in a demonstration outside Downing Street last April to protest against the exclusion of trans people from the ban Credit: PA

The then-prime minister is said to have “changed his mind” after seeing the reaction to the earlier announcement. But he defended the decision not to include trans people, saying there were “complexities and sensitivities” which needed to be worked through. Critics told the government to stop making “pathetic excuses”, protesters took to the streets and so many LGBT+ groups pulled out of the government’s landmark LGBT conference that it had to be cancelled.

Senior Tory MP Alicia Kearns, who has long campaigned on the issue, said she was glad the ban was “finally happening”. “We have a timeline, we know it’s going to be a fully inclusive ban and I am really delighted, because it is right that we end this heinous crime that allows charlatans and quacks to prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” she said in a video posted on Twitter. Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, welcomed the statement, but noted that there had been “delay after delay” since the government first promised to ban conversion practices in 2018. She said: “The UK Government must publish the Bill and an imminent timetable as soon as possible. “The UK Government’s own National LGBT Survey shows that 13 per cent of trans people, and seven percent of all LGBTQA+ people have undergone or been offered so-called conversion therapy. Our communities simply cannot face any further delays.” Downing Street indicated the legislation could be passed before the next general election. “We want to do it in this Parliament, that’s my understanding,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said. “We want it to go through pre-legislative scrutiny in this parliamentary session because we think that’s important because some of the issues we know are not fully resolved. “That’s the process that will get underway in the first instance.”

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