Boris Johnson. (Christopher Furlong – WPA Pool /Getty Images)
The UK government has reportedly made no moves to ban conversion therapy almost two years after pledging to “eradicate” the harmful practice.
So-called “conversion therapy” refers to the dangerous and discredited practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. All efforts to do so have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organisation for decades.
The Conservative government’s July 2018 LGBT+ Action Plan promised to end conversion therapy as a priority, with ministers at the time describing “gay cures” as “abuse of the worst kind”.
Yet nearly two years later, it appears that no progress has been made on the issue, despite a July 2019 report promising that a formal consultation was on the way.
This week, equalities minister Kemi Badenoch called conversion therapy “a very complex issue” and said that the government had not decided how to proceed, The Independent reported.
In a written response to a question about plans for legislation, Badenoch suggested on Monday, May 18, that there were no immediate proposals to change the law. She made no mention of the promised consultation.
“There are a wide range of practices which may fall within its scope and we want to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the situation in the UK to inform an effective approach,” she said.
“Before any decision is made on proposals for ending conversion therapy we must understand the problem, the range of options available and the impact they would have.
“We will work to deepen our understanding and consider all options for ending the practice of conversion therapy.”
Her answer comes in stark contrast to that of former equalities minister Baroness Williams, who told PinkNews in March 2019 that so-called conversion therapy “has nothing to do with faith” and compared the practice to female genital mutilation.
Boris Johnson reaffirmed the government’s intent to end conversion therapy in December when he was asked by PinkNews why his was the only party not to include a pledge to ban it in their election manifesto.
“We remain committed to the LGBT+ Action Plan, including ending the practice of gay conversion therapy,” he said at the time.
However, a spokesperson for the government equalities office told The Independent that ending the practice might not take the form of a legal ban, and that research had been commissioned “to inform different approaches”.
Asked about Badenoch’s comments, the spokesperson confirmed that the government “remains committed to ending conversion therapy.”
They insisted that they were not backtracking on the issue since the government never specifically promised a ban in legislation, but rather to end the practice in an unspecified way.
It is true that the wording of the LGBT+ Action Plan states that the government will “bring forward proposals” to end conversion therapy in the UK, but Badenoch’s statement suggests that these have not materialised either.
When questioned about the matter in January, the minister for safeguarding Victoria Atkins said that the government is “engaging widely” before bringing forward any proposals.
She said that the government has “commissioned research” into the experiences of those who have undergone such traumatising therapies and would set out the next steps in the coming months.