Gay ‘conversion therapy’ is still legal in the UK because it’s a “complex issue”

Cecilie Johnsen

Remember when the UK government pledged to ban gay ‘conversion therapy’?

The practice – which has been discredited by the NHS and the World Psychiatric Association – refers to any attempt at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and often involves techniques like electroshock therapy or prayer.

In 2018, UK’s then-prime minster Theresa May said it was a priority to “end the practice of conversion therapy” as part of a 75-point plan to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people across the country.

“No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love. [The plan will] set out concrete steps to deliver real and lasting change across society,” May said at the time. Well, it’s two years later and the practice is still legal in the UK.

This week, in a parliamentary written answer to a question about forthcoming legislation, equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said banning gay ‘conversion therapy’ is a “very complex issue” and the government have made no progress.

“There are a wide range of practices which may fall within its scope and we want to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the situation in the UK to inform an effective approach,” said Badenoch.

“Before any decision is made on proposals for ending conversion therapy we must understand the problem, the range of options available and the impact they would have.

“We will work to deepen our understanding and consider all options for ending the practice of conversion therapy.”

Speaking to The Independent, the Government Equalities Office said the government “remains committed to ending conversion therapy” and that it might not face a legal ban after all. Yeah, seriously.

The department said “research had been commissioned” to look for alternate methods on how to end the practice. Unsurprisingly, they were unable to provide the publication with a date for new legislation or a consultation.

“Any form of ‘therapy’ that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is unethical and wrong,” Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall, told The Independent.

“Conversion therapies have been condemned by all major UK health organisations as they try to shame a person into denying a core part of who they are, and this can have a seriously harmful impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

“The National LGBT Government survey found that 2% of LGBT people have undergone conversion therapy, and a further 5% have been offered it. We’d urge the Government to remain committed to take the steps they can to end this harmful practice.”

Earlier this month, Germany became the first major European country to pass a ban on gay ‘conversion’ therapy. UK: take note.

Related: Virginia becomes first southern state to ban gay ‘conversion therapy’.

Related: Albania has just banned gay ‘conversion’ therapy for minors.

Related: Utah becomes the 19th state to ban gay ‘conversion’ therapy for minors.

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