The Queen on Tuesday announced the Boris Johnson government’s plans to enact a law to ban so-called conversion therapy or practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in England and Wales.

“Measures will be brought forward to address racial and ethnic disparities and ban conversion therapy,” the Queen said in her speech to the UK Parliament. 

The law, that is to be enacted after a public consultation, is expected to target “coercive practices”. LGBTQI+ activists fear that the proposed law might leave “dangerous loopholes” by exempting such “therapy” being offered by religious and faith-based organisations.

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A survey by the UK government of LGBTQI+ people – said to be the largest in the world – had found that over 2000 people reported undergoing the so-called conversion therapy. One of the most high profile person to be subjected to conversion therapy was Alan Turing, who will now be featured on the British £50 note

‘Trying To Pray The Gay Away’ Legal?

The announcement comes three years after the then Theresa May government promised to ban conversion practices under its LGBT equality plan in 2018. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had last year said that his government would enact a law to ban the practice. 

However, LGBTQI+ rights advocates have said that the government appears to be acceding to religious and conservative Christian groups, by leaving out religious settings from the purview of the proposed ban. This would mean that harmful practices like “trying to pray the gay away” would remain legal. 

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Johnson had recently promised Christian organisations that he does not want to see “clergy and church members criminalised for normal non-coercive activity.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation said that in a letter to conservative Christian group Evangelical Alliance, Johnson said that “appropriate pastoral support (including prayer)” would remain legal. 

Survivors have repeatedly pointed out, including during the discussion before Victoria banned conversion practices, that, “bulk of harm occurs in informal settings like pastoral care in faith communities.”

UK-based Christian Institute has written to the government warning that it would take legal action if the proposed ban “outlaws prayer”.

 

Activists Concerned Over Delay and Exemptions

Stonewall UK, welcomed the announcement, but pointed out that the delay and exemptions would be counter productive.

“We welcome the commitment to introduce legislation to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’. However, the news of a consultation is concerning and will be hard for our communities to hear,” Nancy Kelley, CEO at Stonewall, said in a statement.

“We don’t need a consultation to know that all practices that seek to convert, suppress, cure or change us are dangerous, abusive and must be banned. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex and ace communities have been waiting almost three years for the UK Government to follow through on their promise to ban all conversion practices, and any delay leaves us at further risk of abuse.”

‘The UK Government must publish a comprehensive Bill now, as well as a clear timeline for its implementation. As part of the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition, we will continue to hold the UK Government to account on their promise to ban this abhorrent practice for good, everywhere it happens and to everyone it harms, and protect our communities from harm,” said Kelley.

In a tweet, Stonewall had said that for a ban to be effective, “any Bill must cover sexuality & gender identity, adults and children, conversion practices in all settings including faith, and have statutory support for survivors and victims.”

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

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