Liz Truss sets out plan to ban ‘abhorrent’ conversion therapy

Government wants to ban all ‘coercive’ practices – but experts have warned some victims can appear to have consented

Adam Forrest
Friday 29 October 2021 06:56
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<p>Minister for women and equalities minister  </p>

Minister for women and equalities minister

Cabinet minister Liz Truss has vowed to protect LGBT+ people from “abhorrent” conversion therapy, as the government finally sets out its long-awaited plan to ban the practice.

The Conservatives promised in 2018 to bring forward legislation to end conversion therapies which seek to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In March, three of the government’s LGBT+ advisers quit their posts and issued damning criticism over the failure of Boris Johnson’s government to fulfil the long-standing pledge.

Ms Truss, the minister for women and equalities, is now launching a six-week consultation process on the legislative plan to make “coercive” conversion therapies illegal in England and Wales.

The government wants create a new offence for so-called talking conversion therapies, as well as making sure violent conversion therapy acts are sentenced appropriately under existing laws.

“There should be no place for the abhorrent practice of coercive conversion therapy in our society,” said Ms Truss as she launched the consultation.

“Today we are publishing detailed proposals that will stop appalling conversion therapies and make sure LGBT people can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse.”

The minister added: “I want everyone to be able to love who they want and be themselves. Today’s announcement sets out how we will ban an archaic practice that has no place in modern life.”

The government said individuals would remain “free to seek out professional help and guidance” – saying legislative efforts would be focused on practices which people have not willingly agreed to undertake.

But campaigners have warned that there should be no defence that a victim appears to have consented to conversion therapy if the government hopes to introduce a truly comprehensive ban.

A recent report by the Forum group of human rights lawyers and experts warned: “Individuals who seek out conversion practices in the hope of being ‘cured’ are not made aware of the severe psychological harm to which they are exposed, and so cannot give informed consent.”

Officials in Northern Ireland have already start preliminary work on drafting a bill after politicians at Stormont passed a motion calling for a ban on conversion therapy in April.

In Scotland, the SNP administration has vowed to end conversion therapy – but said it would wait to see if Mr Johnson’s government follows through on its pledge to “eradicate” the practice and how extensive any proposed ban might be.

The government has made clear its legislative plan is aimed at changing the law in only England and Wales.

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) also said ministers were particularly keen safeguard under 18s – saying legislation would place a strong emphasis on preventing children undergoing any conversion therapies.

Ministers are also preparing to bring in Conversion Therapy Protection Orders to protect potential victims from undergoing the practice. This could include removing passports of those at risk of being taken overseas for conversion therapy.

The government is launching its six-week consultation at 9am on Friday. The GEO is seeking input from charities, and is urging those with experience of conversion therapy to come forward to give their views.

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