No more dither or delay: the government must finally ban conversion therapy

No more dither or delay: the government must finally ban conversion therapy, article by LGBT+ Labour Co-chairs Joe Dharampal-Hornby and Lily Soaper

The decision by Rishi Sunak and his Conservative government to remove the ban on conversion therapy from the King’s Speech is deeply concerning. It encapsulates how the government is increasingly disregarding LGBT+ rights.

The government first promised a ban on conversion therapy in 2018, but we still have no draft bill. This is despite France, Germany, Canada, and Spain banning abusive practices within this time. The continued pattern of dither and delay, results in only one outcome: more victims of conversion practices, week in, week out. More lives ruined, week in, week out.

This failure to tackle such heinous practices reflects, and likely contributes to, a growing atmosphere of hostility towards LGBT+ people in the UK. Hate crime based on sexual orientation is up 112% over the last five years, while trans hate crime is up 186%. 

While tolerance of LGBT+ people and LGBT+ relationships has gradually improved since the 1980s, only 67% of people today feel that “sexual relations between adults of the same sex” are “not wrong at all”, with a third of the country holding a different view.

Conversion therapy practices are not limited to religious settings, but it’s worth noting that acceptance of LGBT+ relationships is much lower among people of faith than the general population. 

Many religious leaders recognise this challenge: for example, two-thirds of Church of England priests support a ban on conversion therapy. In 2020, over 370 religious leaders from around the world, representing all the world’s major faiths, also came out in favour of a ban.

The consensus among LGBT+ advocacy groups, international best practice, progressive religious leaders and public opinion is clear: people must be free to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity, but those support structures cannot include therapy which seeks to convert them. 

This week, in Parliament, LGBT+ Labour and Labour MPs are calling for the government to take action now, by bringing forward a full, no-loopholes, trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy in the King’s Speech. But given previous failures, we’re not holding our breath.

If elected to power at the next election, Labour would therefore ban this wicked and outdated practice, to strengthen the safeguards, protections and support networks for vulnerable LGBT+ people across our country.