Dear Thangam Debbonaire MP,
I am writing to ask for your support for a comprehensive ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in England and Wales.
‘Conversion therapy’, or conversion practices, refers to practices that seek to change, “cure”, or suppress an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Conversion practices are abuse. They cause severe and long-lasting physical and psychological suffering, violate the human rights of LGBTQ+ people, and were found by the UN to ‘amount to torture’ in some cases. The UN Independent Expert report on conversion practices found that individuals subjected to this abuse experienced “significant loss of self-esteem, anxiety, depressive syndrome, social isolation, intimacy difficulty, self-hatred, shame and guilt, sexual dysfunction, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as often significant physical pain and suffering.”
The UK Government’s National LGBT Survey 2018 – the largest national survey of LGBT people ever conducted in the world, with over 108,000 respondents – found that 7 per cent of LGBT people have been offered or undergone conversion therapy, and that rises to 13 per cent of trans people.
The UK Government committed to banning conversion practices after the release of the National LGBT Survey, yet nearly four years have passed without a ban. This has left, and continues to leave, victims and potential victims of conversion practices at risk of abuse and lifelong harm.
The UK Government announced its intention to ban conversion practices in England and Wales in the Queen’s Speech May 2021, and released its proposals in October 2021. These proposals were open to consultation, which ended in February, and the Minister for Women and Equalities has committed to publishing draft legislation in the Spring.
The proposals include plans to introduce a new criminal offence for talking conversion therapy, as well as sentence uplifts for current offences that are found to have been used as a form of conversion therapy. There are also proposals to ban the advertising and promotion of conversion practices, to prevent young people being taken abroad for the purpose of conversion, and to engage statutory services in supporting victims and those at risk.
The Government will use the consultation responses to inform legislation for a ban, but there are concerning gaps in its proposals that must be dealt with for a legislative ban to be effective.
Please write to the Minister for Women and Equalities and call on her to ensure that any draft legislation to ban conversion practices:
- Protects all LGBTQ+ people. The definitions used by the UK Government of ‘same-sex to opposite-sex attraction’ and ‘transgender to not transgender’, or vice versa, do not include bi, asexual or non-binary people or other minority sexual orientations or diverse gender identities.
- Does not include a ‘consent loophole’. It is impossible to consent to abuse. Conversion practices are not a medical or therapeutic procedure, but the UK Government proposals suggest adults could provide ‘informed consent’. This is an incorrect application of the concept of ‘informed consent’ which could have significant legal implications for other forms of manipulative abuse such as domestic abuse.
- Bans all conversion practices in all settings. Whether in healthcare, therapeutic, religious or cultural settings, there should be no exemption for any form of conversion practices. While ensuring religious freedoms are maintained, there should be no exemption for faith-based conversion therapy which constitutes over half of the experiences of conversion practices in the UK.
- Provides support services for current and historical survivors of conversion practices.
Will you write to the Women and Equalities Minister to comprehensively ban conversion practices? Will you support legislation to ban conversion practices when it comes to the House? Will you support amendments to protect all LGBTQ+ people from this abuse, to remove the consent loophole, and to remove exemptions?
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further and look forward to hearing from you soon.
Thank you for contacting me about conversion therapy.
I am committed to ensuring LGBT+ people can live in safety and dignity. I completely agree that LGBT+ conversion therapies must be banned as a matter of urgency. Conversion therapies are exploitative and damaging.
On 29 October 2021, the UK Government published its long-awaited consultation on proposals to ban conversion therapy. The consultation closed on 4 February 2022, and the Government advises it is in the process of analysing the responses received and preparing legislation for spring, which it says it will introduce “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. I will follow developments on this closely.
However, I am very concerned that it has already taken more than three years to get to this point, and unfortunately the proposals are far from comprehensive. Loopholes appear to leave the door ajar for people to ‘consent’ to conversion therapy on religious grounds. This is unacceptable. I would urge the Government to divert its energies to listening to survivors of these harmful practices and the wider LGBT+ community, not those wishing to allow conversion therapy to continue.
I believe that it is high time that legislation is introduced, such as protection orders for people who are vulnerable to pressure to suppress, deny or forcibly change their sexuality or gender identity.
There is a broad consensus from faith leaders across the diversity of faith communities in the UK that conversion therapy is abuse and in December 2020, a significant cross-faith conference of leaders supported a ban on conversion therapy.
I am aware that the Government is seeking to launch a phone helpline for victims of conversion therapy. However, overall the Government has made very slow progress. For instance, it is still yet to confirm whether it will be going ahead with its LGBT Action Plan.
Let me assure you that I will be doing everything I can to hold the Government to account on its commitments and that I will continue to work hard to see that the LGBT+ community can live their lives with equality, dignity and respect.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue.
Thangam Debbonaire MP