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Government to bring forward legislation to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales

The UK Government has announced that it will bring forward legislation to ban the practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in England and Wales in the forthcoming year, following reportedly a public consultation on the matter. Humanists UK, which has campaigned for decades for a ban, has welcomed the announcement, but warned that in order to be effective, the ban must cover all settings where such practices occur, including religious settings.

Conversion therapy is defined as practices that try to coerce people out of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The UK Government National LGBT Survey in 2018 reported that 7% of LGBT people had undergone or been offered such practices. Of those who had undergone conversion therapy 51% reported that it had been conducted by a religious group or in a religious setting. Such practices have been widely rejected by the medical community as there is no evidence that they are effective and are known to cause significant damage to the mental health of those who are subjected to it. Furthermore, such practices continue to legitimise homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic attitudes by falsely equating LGBT identities to a pathology that can be fixed or cured.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented,

‘We are pleased that the Government has at last set a timetable for bringing forward legislation to end the practice of conversion therapy. Practices that have the sole aim of coercing LGBT people into denying their sexual orientation or gender identity, by whatever means, are harmful and wrong.

‘Of course, any such legislation needs to be carefully drafted to make sure that legitimate medical practices by regulated professionals are allowed to continue. If a quick public consultation helps that, so be it, but after all these years of waiting, consultation needs to be short and legislation swift.

‘Further, there should be no carve-outs to allow religious conversion therapy to continue. We are strong advocates for freedom of religion or belief, but only so long as it does no harm to others. We know it is within religious settings that most conversion therapy occurs, as well as the most damaging forms such as exorcisms and forced prayer. When people are experiencing such extreme distress over their sexual orientation or gender identity, they should be met with person-centred, therapeutically well-grounded support, not coercive, medically worthless practices that seek to push them in a particular direction.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about our work on conversion therapy.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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