UK: Government to ban ‘conversion therapy’ after backlash

Britain’s government promised on Friday to push ahead with a ban on so-called conversion therapy, after three LGBT+ policy advisers questioned ministers’ commitment to fulfilling the pledge, and resigned in protest this week.

As other nations outlaw attempts to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity, Junior Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch, angered LGBT+ advocates, by talking of “ending” conversion therapy, rather than committing to a legislative ban.

But Liz Truss, women and equalities minister, said the government was committed to the pledge it made almost three years ago to outlaw the practice.

“We’re very committed to LGBT equality… and will shortly be bringing forward plans to ban conversion therapy, which is an abhorrent practice,” Truss told British broadcaster ITV.

Her comments were welcomed by Jayne Ozanne, a prominent gay Anglican, and one of the three advisers who resigned from the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel, following Badenoch’s comments in parliament on Monday.

“Obviously, I’m really pleased and welcome the fact that the secretary of state has now unequivocally used the word ban and made clear that’s what she wants,” Ozanne told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“But the devil is in the detail and we will need to look very clearly at the proposed legislation to ensure it protects the most vulnerable,” Ozanne said, adding that she would consider returning to her post on the advisory panel.

LGBT+ conversion therapy, criticised as harmful by the United Nations and numerous medical groups, is outlawed in Brazil, Ecuador, and Malta.

Germany banned it for minors last year, and several other countries are mulling similar restrictions or outright bans.

In recent months, LGBT+ campaigners have criticised Britain’s government, for not yet banning the practice, despite having first pledged to do so in 2018.

“The government has dithered for almost 1,000 days,” veteran human rights activist, Peter Tatchell, said in a statement.

“We will not let up until we see the details and timetable of the new law. The ban must protect trans people and apply to religious practices.”

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.

-Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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