The government’s long-promised ban on so-called conversion therapy is now awaiting final sign-off from the prime minister.ITV News understands that a draft bill ending the harmful practice was sent to Rishi Sunak earlier this week.He is now considering the exact wording of the bill before giving the Equalities Office permission to proceed.It has so far taken five years for the government to implement a ban, first promised by Theresa May in 2018.
The exact scope of the legislation has been the subject of intense debate.ITV News understands that the draft bill will cover conversion therapy which either attempts to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity.The latter has proven to be the more controversial element, with some MPs concerned that a ban could prevent parents, teachers and other adults from sensibly discussing gender identity with a child who is feeling conflicted.Ultimately it will be up to the prime minister to decide the final wording, but campaigners are already concerned about a major loophole in the bill.
ITV News has been told that a consent clause has been inserted, meaning that conversion therapy could still be legal if someone volunteers for it.The bill would only outlaw conversion therapy which has been forced upon an individual.Campaigners for a ban argue that the vast majority of people who receive conversion therapy willingly volunteer themselves, given the pressures and turmoil that they often feel about their sexuality or gender identity.ITV News has exposed several practices which could still be legal if the consent clause is left in, including intensive prayer.
All of the major medical bodies in the UK have long concluded that conversion therapy does not work and can be deeply damaging to an individual’s mental health.The government has been saying since January that a bill will be published ‘imminently’.If the prime minister gives his sign off the earliest sight of the bill is likely to be next week, but this is not certain. That would allow the government to announce the proposals before the end of pride month.A special committee of MPs will then scrutinise the draft bill and potentially amend it further before it is passed through Parliament.A fully implemented ban is still someway off, therefore. But we may finally be about to see the shape of it.
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