UK: Minister urged to resign over conversion therapy

Britain’s equalities minister should consider stepping down, over the government’s failure to fulfil a pledge to ban so-called conversion therapy, a former LGBT+ policy adviser said on Thursday, after she and two others quit their jobs in protest.

The advisers resigned after the minister, Kemi Badenoch, told parliament on Monday [that] the government was still reviewing the issue – almost three years after vowing to ban attempts to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I do believe that Kemi Badenoch should consider her position after the speech she gave on Monday night,” prominent gay Anglican, Jayne Ozanne, who resigned from the panel on Wednesday, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I’ve been increasingly frustrated with what I’ve seen as a hostile environment (for LGBT+ people),” Ozanne added.

Ozanne was particularly critical of Badenoch for talking of “ending” conversion therapy, rather than specifically committing to outlawing the practice.

A spokesman reiterated the government’s commitment to tackling the issue.

“Earlier this week the Minister set out the government’s desire to end conversion therapy, making it clear that the practice has no place in a civilised society,” the spokesman said by email.

“We continue to consider all legislative and non-legislative options to end promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy.”

Conversion therapy, criticised as harmful by the United Nations, and numerous medical groups, is outlawed in Brazil, Ecuador, and Malta. Germany banned carrying it out on minors last year, and several other countries are considering bans.

A 2017 British government survey of 108,000 LGBT+ people, found 2% had gone through conversion therapy, while a further 5% had been offered it.

James Morton, a transgender activist, who also resigned from the government panel this week, said he feared trans people might be excluded from any proposed conversion therapy ban.

“The psychological trauma and damage that people are still struggling with because people tried to force them or persuade them or bully them or manipulate them into stopping being trans … that damage is horrendous,” he said.

LGBT+ activists also expressed concern that a conversion therapy ban might include religious exemptions, after Badenoch told MPs the government would not “stop those who wish to seek spiritual counselling as they explore their sexual orientation”.

-Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage and Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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