Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

The Welsh government has announced how it plans to advance its ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ after Boris Johnson’s flip-flopping on the issue.

Hannah Blythyn, the country’s Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, stated that NHS Wales has signed up to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to prohibit the practice.

In effect, organisations working in mental or psychological health that sign it make a commitment to not provide or commission ‘conversion therapy’ in Wales.

“As a government, we’ve committed to ensuring that we become the friendliest LGBTQ+ nation in Europe, where no one is left out or left behind,” she said on 25 April.

“Today I am announcing several further steps Welsh Government is taking towards making ‘conversion therapy’ a thing of the past.

“In addition to seeking legal advice to determine all the levers we have in Wales to end the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ unilaterally; we will educate and raise awareness of the horrors and ineffectiveness of ‘conversion therapy’ practices by establishing a dedicated campaign in Wales.”

Blythyn also confirmed plans to “better understand” how victims are affected by it to ensure any ban covers all of the “key elements” it needs to.

She added: “Alongside this, work will be undertaken to better understand the impact of ‘conversion therapy’ on survivors to enable support services to be improved and we will establish a working group of experts, to include representatives from faith communities; the health and social care sector; and children and young people’s representatives, alongside LGBTQ+ people to help with this work and advise on key elements as a ban is developed.”

‘Conversion therapy’ is typically defined as any attempt at changing a person’s sexuality or gender identity, often involving techniques such as electroshock therapy or prayer.

It has been widely condemned by health experts all over the world, with some comparing it to torture.

Among these are the National Health Service, World Health Organisation, World Psychiatric Association and the United Nations.

A commitment to banning it was first made by Theresa May’s administration in 2018, though is yet to actually happen.

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, criticised the government for “flip-flopping” and said ‘conversion therapy’ should be banned “in all its forms”.

In a joint statement, Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, and Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, said: “The Welsh Government and NHS Wales fully support the banning of LGBTQ+ ‘conversion therapy’, witnessed through our signing of the MoU with the Coalition Against Conversion Therapy.

“We stand united in our desire to make this abhorrent practice illegal and believe this will offer an important opportunity to support those at risk of conversion therapy as well as victims and survivors.”

Rounding out her announcement on attempting to progress plans for a ban in Wales, the Deputy Minister said she is “confident” the actions will help “make Wales the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe, where every corner of our country is a safe place for LGBTQ+ people to live openly and authentically as themselves.”