Conversion therapy not banned for consenting adults under proposed UK bill

The proposal comes over three years after the Tory party promised to outlaw the practice.

Conversion therapy protesters gather with a big sign saying 'love needs no cure' as the UK introduces plans to restrict the practice.
Image: Twitter: @Miroandrej

On Friday, October 29, the UK government announced new plans to restrict conversion therapy, as Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, “vowed to protect LGBT people, and especially under 18s” from the harmful service. Within the new bill, the Government has also proposed funding support for victims of conversion therapy, which includes developing a new helpline.

Although the practice will be outlawed completely for under 18s and vulnerable people in England and Wales under this proposal, fears remain for queer adults who will still have access should they consent.

Minister Truss stated that “There should be no place for the abhorrent practice of coercive conversion therapy in our society,” yet the Government Equalities Office confirmed that they “do not intend to ban adults from seeking such counselling freely”. This is due to the fact that there are some “who seek counselling to help them live a life that they feel is more in line with their personal beliefs.”

Stonewall chief executive, Nancy Kelley, said that while the proposals are “a huge step forward”, the “loophole” that allows for “religious counselling” is worrying.

“There are still concerning gaps that the UK government must close, including on prayer and statutory support for victims. We also can’t support that the proposals allow for people to ‘consent’ to conversion therapy – a practice that is abusive and cannot be consented to.

“If we are to truly put this shameful practice behind us, the ban must not allow for any excuses or any exemptions,” she continued.

From today, a six-week government consultation will proceed to explore how to legislate for such a ban. It “will allow individuals to express their views on these proposals, presenting a vital opportunity for the public and key stakeholders to work with the government to develop an effective ban.”

The responses from this consultation will help to refine the proposal and allow the Government to introduce legislation by Spring 2022. 

In relation to this, Minister for Equalities, Mike Freer, said: “Input from victims and stakeholder groups will be vital and I urge everyone to have their say, making sure the ban puts an end to these practices, once and for all.”

It seems that the queer community still has time to challenge and change the bill, which will hopefully see a more concrete ban on conversion therapy introduced in the UK from next year.

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