What is conversion therapy? Government sets out new proposals

The government has put forward new proposals to combat so-called conversion therapy and to ban it when it comes to coercion – but without banning the practice entirely.

In a series of proposals put forward by the government’s Equal Opportunities Bureau and Minister for Gender Equality Liz Truss in the run-up to a six-week consultation process, the government recommends banning “forced conversion therapy”.

However, it also states that it “does not intend to prohibit adults from freely receiving such advice”, although it does insist that “consent requirements will be robust and strict”.

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The practice has been strongly condemned by LGBT rights groups and other human rights activists.

What is conversion therapy?

Conversion therapy involves attempts to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

In fact, conversion therapy seeks to prevent people from being gay, bisexual, or a gender different from what they were assigned at birth.

LGBT legal organizations have been campaigning for a total ban on conversion therapy for years, although some faith groups oppose this as a violation of religious freedom.

However, the Church of England has stated that it is in favor of banning conversion therapy and that the practice “has no place in the modern world”.

A government poll in 2018 found that around 5% of 108,000 LGBT respondents said they had been offered some type of conversion therapy – and that 2% had done one.

Among them were 10% of the Christians surveyed and 20% of the Muslims, suggesting that the practice is more common among faith groups. However, the survey did not provide a specific definition of conversion therapy or whether it had taken place in the UK.

Transgender people are also more likely to undergo conversion therapy. Around 4% of respondents said they had undergone one, while 10% had been offered it.

What is the government doing regarding conversion therapy?

In its new plans, the government is proposing to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales to anyone under the age of 18 and vulnerable adults who are considered incapable of consent.

It is planned to create new protection orders to confiscate passports if there is a risk that they will be taken abroad to undergo conversion therapy.

But it also stops proposing an outright ban, noting that “there are adults out there who seek advice to help them lead lives that they think are more in line with their personal beliefs”.

The government will now hold a consultation on the plans over the next six weeks before drafting a bill next spring. It intends to pass this law by May 2022.

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