UK human rights watchdog wants to delay Trans conversion therapy ban

The UK LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall said they were "deeply troubled" by the decision of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

A Trans flag waves above a crowd at an outdoor rally. This article is about a UK Trans conversion therapy ban.
Image: Photo by Oriel Frankie Ashcroft from Pexels

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in the UK published a report on January 26 to encourage delaying a ban on Trans ‘conversion therapy’. The report was published in regards to the government’s plans to pass legislation that would effectively ban the practice wholesale. Activists have described themselves as “deeply concerned” about the move in the wake of rising transphobia in the country. 

The UK government is conducting consultations on the ban with the proposed measures applying to Scotland, England and Wales. The consultation should go on until February 4 and, after that, the final phase for the policy proposals would begin.

However the EHRC, which is the national equality body for Scotland, England and Wales doesn’t seem to agree with this timeline. Their report concludes that there is a “lack of evidence about conversion therapy in relation to being transgender” and that for this reason the new legislation should not include references to Trans ‘conversion therapy’ and should instead “initially focus on banning conversion therapy attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation, where the evidence and impacts are clearer“.

These statements effectively disregard findings from the UK government on the matter, not to mention the expert opinion of the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

UK LGBTQ+ association Stonewall released a comment on the report saying: “We are deeply troubled by the approach that the EHRC is taking to Trans people’s human rights. Their approach appears to focus on pleasing a noisy minority of anti-Trans activists, rather than promoting human rights for all LGBTQ+ people“.

The term ‘conversion therapy’ refers to a series of practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Health experts have widely condemned such practices and deemed them ineffective and harmful, with some comparing them to torture. Various countries in the world have passed legislation banning conversion therapy, as encouraged by institutions like the World Health Organisation, the World Psychiatric Association and the UN.

Despite this, the watchdog for equality and human rights in the UK suggests further consultation is needed on a ban of conversion therapy that targets Trans people because it doesn’t “address the possible need to consider a differentiated approach in relation to sexual orientation and being Transgender so as to ensure, in particular, that clinicians and therapists are not prohibited from providing appropriate care and support for individuals with gender dysphoria”.

Other activists have voiced their concerns about the report. In talking to Gay Times, Jayne Ozanne, Chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition, commented, “The government’s own research – along now with significant international research and hundreds of survivor testimonies – has shown that the most common form of ‘conversion therapy’ is to be found in religious settings and those who are most at risk of ‘conversion therapy’ are Trans and non-binary people”.

She added that “This is deeply shocking coming from the one body whose legal duty is to protect the rights of the vulnerable and to champion those who are being harmed by prejudice and discrimination. This is a significant change in its position and one has to now ask whether the EHRC is truly fit for purpose?”

It is notable that such a report was published right after the UK was condemned as a “country of concern” for Trans people by the Council of Europe, specifically because of its appalling levels of transphobia.

The UK government’s consultation on the ban of conversion therapy is still open and details can be found here.

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