Hosted by Public Policy Exchange | Thursday, June 17 2021 | 9:30am — 1pm
According to the UK Government’s National LGBT survey carried out in 2017, around 7% of the LGBT+ community had been offered ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapy, with 2% undergoing so called treatment. According to a UN report last year, conversion therapy is an umbrella term to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature all of which have in common the belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) can and should be changed. In 2012, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) noted that “conversion therapies” had no medical justification and represented a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons, and in 2016, the World Psychiatric Association found that “there is no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed”. In 2020, the Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG) declared that offering “conversion therapy” is a form of deception, false advertising and fraud.
In 2017, then Secretary of State for Health, said that the government had consistently condemned conversion therapy and had stressed that no public money should be spent on it. The government’s 2018 LGBT Action Plan, committed to “bringing forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK.” Prime Minister Johnson said in July that the practice was “absolutely abhorrent” and that plans for a ban would be brought forward. In 2020, a petition calling for the criminalisation of conversion therapies was signed by over 256,000 people. In response, the Government Equalities Office published its response stating that it would work to deepen its understanding and consider options for ending the practice of conversion therapy, including both legislative and non-legislative options. The Government has also stressed that certain abhorrent and violent practices which may be classed as conversion therapy such as ‘corrective’ rape, or other forms of physical abuse, are already covered by existing criminal offences.
Campaigners, including Stonewall and the Ozanne Foundation, however have accused government of not moving quickly enough towards banning conversion therapy. In March, three of the government’s equality advisers resigned over the lack of action, with one claiming that ministers were creating a “hostile environment” for gay and trans people. Critics have also denounced a government response that said that while a “robust criminal law framework” was in place to deal with the worst examples of conversion therapy, the government didn’t want to stop those who “seek spiritual counselling as they explore their sexual orientation”.
Only four countries in the world – Brazil, Ecuador, Germany and Malta – have banned the practice, whilst the World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 60 health professional associations from over 20 countries have discredited the practice. This includes the NHS and 12 UK psychotherapy bodies who singed a Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in 2017 which committed to ending the practice.
This symposium provides a timely opportunity for key stakeholders to discuss government plans to ban the practice, as well as ways in which other stakeholders can help to clamp down on conversion therapies and support those at risk and vulnerable.
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