This is a very serious issue and I know that my colleagues in the Equalities Office remain committed to tackling conversion therapy in the UK. I am absolutely clear that this practice has no place in civilised society. Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not an illness to be treated or cured.
I am encouraged that this view is shared by the head of the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the British Medical Association. Each of these bodies have concluded that such therapy is unethical and potentially harmful.
The Government Equalities’ Office commissioned a large-scale LGBT survey in 2017. Sadly, two per cent of respondents to the national LGBT survey said they had undergone conversion therapy in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being LGBT. Unfortunately, in this survey, what conversion therapy entailed was not defined, nor were the respondents asked whether or not the conversion therapy referred to in their answer was offered in the UK.
I very much welcome the fact that the Government is delivering on its promise and will legislate to ban conversion therapy to protect LGBT people from this harmful practice.
The Government has now launched a six-week consultation, closing on Friday 10th December, on how Ministers plan to ban practices of so called ‘conversion therapy’. This consultation invites views on the Government’s proposals from members of the public, victims of conversion therapy, LGBT organisations, faith groups, psychiatric and counselling bodies, charities and other interested stakeholders to ensure we hear from all voices in shaping the ban on conversion therapy. I would therefore encourage you to take part at the following link – https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/banning-conversion-therapy.
The Government’s proposals include the creation of a new criminal offence and we will also ensure that conversion therapy is considered by judges as a potential aggravating factor upon sentencing for existing violent criminal offences. Ministers further propose a range of other supportive measures including the introduction of statutory Conversion Therapy Protection Orders to protect individuals facing imminent risk, such as forced travel abroad to receive conversion therapy.
I would like to reassure you that the results will be analysed and will inform the Government’s next steps in preparing legislation for spring 2022.