Where’s ‘conversion therapy’? Controversial practice to be reportedly absent from King’s Speech

Graham Robson November 6, 2023

A ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ will reportedly be absent from tomorrow’s King’s Speech and it now seems highly unlikely that a ban can be enacted before the next election despite the Government’s commitment to ban the practice five years ago.

This reported omission comes after years of inaction and u-turns. It has been over five years since the Government first announced its commitment to banning the harmful practice. However, after abandoning its plan to bring forward legislation in March 2022, the Government was forced to u-turn on this decision the following day as a result of significant backlash. It was then reported that the ban would only protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, and not trans people.

Then, early this year, LGBTQ+ community groups, activists and organisations welcomed the news that the Government would publish a draft bill ‘shortly’ and that the ban would include protection for trans people after all. However, when no draft bill was forthcoming after the summer recess, campaigners protested the ongoing delays. Since then, there has been little more than conflicting reports as to whether the bill would appear in the King’s Speech or not.

Conversion therapy is a discredited and harmful practice, usually rooted in false and often pseudoscientific religious beliefs about what causes people to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans. Evidence shows that it leads to lasting damage for the people subjected to these ‘treatments’. It can result in lasting mental scars, self-harm, and even suicide. Victims are often young and vulnerable, and are more likely to face abuse from their families or communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Nick Baldwin from LGBT Humanists, who have long campaigned for a ban and have expressed dismay that the Government has failed to uphold its commitment to protect LGBTQ+ people from harm, commented: “It’s an understatement to say we’re disappointed by the Government’s complete failure to deliver on its commitment to ban conversion therapy.

“We’re outraged. We have campaigned for a ban for decades, alongside many others – and we will continue to do so. We remain committed to championing a ban that is inclusive of the whole LGBTQ+ community. We cannot accept a ban that contains any loopholes that weaken protections for some, or leave anyone exposed to these abhorrent practices.’

The UK Government’s 2018 National LGBT Survey showed that 7% of LGBTQ+ people had undergone or been offered conversion therapy. Of those who had undergone it, 51% reported that it had been conducted by a religious group or in a religious setting. Such activities can include exorcisms and forced prayer.