A Stormont Minister has warned against rushing a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ in Northern Ireland for fear ineffective laws will allow the practice to continue.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has started the process of drafting legislation for a ban on conversion therapy while working alongside an expert panel to put together Stormont’s sexual orientation strategy. However, she stressed the importance in establishing the scale of these harmful practices in Northern Ireland.
Speaking with Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), Hargey said, “I don’t want to leave any loophole in the legislation that this practice may continue and therefore the legislation would be meaningless.”
SDLP MLA Colin McGrath expressed concerns that the legislation could be delayed beyond the end of the Assembly mandate next spring. During question time, he stated, “This is a harsh and cruel practice and it does seriously impact the mental health of members of our community. I welcome the announcement of strategies and impending legislation, but sometimes the executive is good at announcing strategies and legislation but not just so good on delivering them.”
“Could I take this opportunity to encourage the minister to move as quickly as possible to deliver this whilst at the same time undertaking all of the loopholes that she has mentioned. We are the last place in these islands to deliver this so there should be plenty of experience out there on what to do and get it right,” McGrath concluded.
Further addressing the need for careful consideration in drafting the legislation, Hargey added, “People have been completely affected by this, that has completely changed their life, their family dynamics as well, and obviously it is a cruel treatment that has to be banned and ended as soon as possible. But I have to make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes as other jurisdictions.”
In Britain, the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign has renewed calls for outlawing these dangerous practices. They are asking people to email MPs to follow through with introducing a ban, writing, “Your voice can make a difference.”
At the end of March it will have been 1000 days since the UK Gov promised to ban conversion therapy. Today we are calling for them to finally act and #BanConversionTherapy!
Your voice can make a difference.
— BanConversionTherapy (@BanCTorg) March 4, 2021
The Ban Conversion Therapy movement was co-founded by Matthew Hyndman, a former missionary for a Northern Irish church. Reflecting on these harmful practices, he shared, “For many, refusing conversion therapy means losing your family, faith, community, career, friends – your entire life. While people might think that conversion therapy is consensual, or something that people willingly seek, this must be questioned when someone’s whole life is at stake. It can seem impossible to even imagine another life. You do not have free will with a loaded gun to your head.”
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