Five years since the UK government first promised to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’, campaigners fear that no legislation will ever materialise under Rishi Sunak’s leadership after there was no mention of it in the King’s Speech.
The annual speech, which this year took place on 7 November, is an opportunity for the government to lay out its plans for the upcoming year, as well as the laws it intends to pass in order to achieve its goals.
There was outrage, however, when King Charles III did not acknowledge ‘conversion therapy’ in any capacity.
Given that the next session of Parliament is likely to be the last before the upcoming general election, which must take place no later than January 2025, there is virtually no possibility of a ban being implemented under the current government – though there is still a chance of non-legislative action being introduced to block some of the practices.
“The government has chosen to prioritise appeasing perpetrators”
Jayne Ozanne, who chairs the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition and resigned from the government’s LGBT advisory panel two years ago after accusing it of creating a hostile environment for the community, told GAY TIMES that “we are now witnessing the serious rollback on rights and protections that many have feared and which caused me to resign as a Government Adviser in 2021.”
“To break your flagship promise to a community that has seen a significant rise in hate crime is a total moral failure,” she continued.
“To do so after five years of posturing, with minimal engagement with victims of ‘conversion therapy’, shows just how callously the government treats LGBT+ lives.
“The government has chosen to prioritise appeasing perpetrators, condemning many to untold abuse that is now sanctioned by the State.
“The Prime Minister’s failure to act will be remembered for years to come, it will take generations for LGBT+ people to trust his party again – indeed I know many in Britain will now clearly see just how he treats marginalised communities in his care.”
Promise of a ban was included in the Queen’s Speech last year
A ban was previously promised during the Queen’s Speech in May 2022, which was delivered by the then Prince Charles on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, meaning that the Conservative Party has effectively backtracked on its promise to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Broadcaster and journalist India Willoughby said it was “deeply disappointing” to see the government once again U-turn on the issue.
Speaking to GAY TIMES, she added: “But what do we expect from a party dominated by the religious right and a Prime Minister who doesn’t even believe trans people are ‘real’?
“The Conservatives have never been a friend of LGBT+.
“Any concessions they’ve made have been through a forced smile, due to public pressure.”
In a statement shared with GAY TIMES, Caroline Nokes, the Conservative MP who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “I am very disappointed that the opportunity to establish a single clear piece of legislation to tackle conversion therapy has been lost.
“My Select Committee has been very clear on this – conversion practices are abhorrent and need to be stamped out.”
This was a sentiment echoed by Alicia Kearns, Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton, who called on the government to “do the right thing” by banning ‘conversion therapy’ and sending the message once and for all that love is not a pathology.”
She continued: “The decision to leave LGBT people at the mercy of bigots and quacks is deeply disappointing. This decision flies in the face of promises made from the despatch box and by written statement in January to bring forward and complete Pre-Legislative Scrutiny before the King’s Speech.
“Everyone understands that a ‘conversion therapy’ ban would be complex, but surely we have confidence that the British parliament is capable of rising to that challenge?
“A ban is needed to protect LGBT people from charlatans and bigots who believe that LGBT individuals have a pathology that needs to be cured. There are non-legislative options which I have set out for the Government that would at least give better protections to LGBT people – I urge them to take action to prevent lifelong harm to those who simply need to be allowed to love themselves for who they are.
“I’m by no means done fighting, and will continue to work with the majority of MPs who want to see this practice ended for good.”
Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Nottingham East, stated that the government’s decision to not proceed with a ban sends “five years of promises down the drain”.
“The Conservatives are throwing the LGBTQ+ community under the bus as part of their strategy to vilify and dehumanise marginalised people to distract from their own failings. We cannot let them win.”
“Our community deserves to be safe and protected now”
Leni Morris, CEO of anti-LGBTQIA+ abuse charity Galop, urged the government to “prioritise” banning the practice.
“With each day that passes, our community is left at risk of a kind of abuse that only happens to us – one that tries to change, ‘cure’ or suppress their gender identity or orientation. It has been five years since the Government promised to enact a ban,” she told GAY TIMES.
“In order for the ban to be effective, it must be inclusive and cover all the ways in which conversion practices affect our community – without any loopholes around consent or religious exemption.
“We encourage the government to bring this vital piece of legislation to Parliament quickly, with no more delays. Our community deserves to be safe and protected now.”
Robbie de Santos, Director of External Affairs at Stonewall, described the failure to mention a ban in the King’s Speech as “an act of frightful negligence” that “gives the green light” for the abuse of LGBTQIA+ people to continue.
“Rather than getting mired in a cynical cultural war, the UK Government should be making decisions based on what the evidence and expertise said,” he continued. “England and Wales’ 1.5 million LGBTQ+ people, and their families, deserve better.”
The government has been promising a ban since 2018
‘Conversion therapy’ is typically defined as any attempt at changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality or gender identity and often involves techniques such as intensive prayer and, in some cases, electroshock therapy.
It has been widely condemned by health experts and bodies all over the world, including the National Health Service and the World Health Organisation, with some comparing it to torture.
A commitment to banning it was first made by Theresa May’s administration in 2018, with the exact form the legislation will take being the subject of intense debate in the UK since then.
Boris Johnson’s government made a number of backtrack s to these promises, previously resulting in fear from the LGBTQIA+ community that the legislation would not include protections for all, something that led to thousands protesting outside Downing Street.