karendesuyo via Flickr

MPs have called upon the government to go ahead with a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban.

Yesterday, March 8, 20 MPs debated an online petition advocating for the ban on conversion therapy practices in the UK.

The e-petition is calling to make “conversion therapy in the UK a criminal offence” and currently has 256,392 signatures.

Alongside the main call for banning conversion therapy, the petition urges the UK government to enforce policies to prevent the practice from continuing outside of a ban.

Conservative MP and Petitions Committee member Elliot Colburn opened the debate with the stories of three conversion therapy survivors.

Conversion therapy is the practice of attempting to ‘erase, repress, cure or change’ someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through forms psychological and physical methods.

Conversion therapy practice is already outlawed in Switzerland and certain areas in Australia, Canada, the US, and in some cases in India.

MPs from all parties have called upon the government to urgently action a legalisation timeline to prevent the ‘medieval’ practice from continuing.

Labour MP, Stephen Doughty, stated his solidarity with the non-binary community and called the need for a conversion therapy ban a “human rights issue”.

He added: “It boils down to one phrase: Let’s get on with it ….  the only people speaking in defence of it are quacks, bigots and bullies.”

Former Scottish Secretary David Mundell said conversion therapy “could not be tolerated”. Mundell was the Conservative Party’s first openly gay cabinet minister after coming out in 2016.

He added the government has “given the impression of being tardy” and now was “the time to end that impression”.

Kemi Badenoch, secretary of state for equalities, assured MPs the government are taking the inhumane practice “very seriously” and have a “comprehensive plan”.

Speaking to the MPs, Badenoch said: “We are in conversations with international counterparts, both those who have introduced the variety of legislative and non-legislative actions, and those who plan to.”

“While it is important to figure out what will work in a UK context, we may also look to our friends around the world to understand the effectiveness of different approaches.

“Honourable members have mentioned, for example, that Germany has implemented a ban on conversion therapy for minors only, or when an adult has been covered, and I understand other countries such as Malta have also taken this route.

“However, we understand that different countries will take different approaches that best suit their needs. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Labour politician Angela Eagle called conversion therapy  “medieval” and “dehumanising”. She also emphasised the “serious risk” the ongoing practices will have on the LGBTQ+ community’s mental health.

MPs have also called for the potential conversion therapy ban to be inclusive of the transgender community.

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt stated the ban must be LGBTQ+ inclusive and “include trans people”.

Blunt continued to elaborate the importance of having a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban: “If legislation doesn’t include the protection of trans people, it will send the unmistakable message to them that their government does not want to protect them, does not value them, and on some level, it doesn’t really accept that trans is really a thing, and that awful message would inadvertently make the government party to the practice of conversion therapy itself.”

Data from the National LGBT Survey suggests that 7% of LGBTQ+ individuals have been offered or undergone conversion therapy.

Transgender respondents are almost twice as likely (13%) to have been offered or undergone conversion therapy.

In May 2020, the Government issued a response to the LGBTQ+ petition: “We will work to deepen our understanding and consider all options for ending the practice of conversion therapy.”

LGBTQ+ organisations and faith communities are calling for the UK government to “stop dragging its feet” on the conversion therapy ban.

March 28 will mark exactly 1,000 days since the government announced a commitment to end conversion therapy practices in the UK.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May promised to outlaw “abhorrent” conversion therapy treatment as a part of the LGBT Action Plan in 2018.

In light of the 1,000 day milestone, a collective of mental health practitioners, LGBTQ+ organisations and religious communities are once again calling for the UK government to implement a legislative ban on conversion therapy.

Matthew Hyndman, co-founder of the BCT Campaign, said: “LGBTQIA+ people don’t need to be ‘cured’ or change who we are, and any intervention claiming to do this is untruthful, unethical, and preys on those of us who are in most need of support and community.”

Last July, an open letter was sent to Boris Johnson and Downing Street calling for a full ban on gay ‘conversion therapy’ for all LGBTQ+ people in the UK, which has attracted the support of numerous celebrities.

The letter, backed by Elton John, Stephen Fry, Dua Lipa, Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, Stonewall, Mermaids, The Ozanne Foundation, Amnesty UK, Gendered Intelligence, All-Out and many others was sent to Downing Street and Equalities Minister, Liz Truss, on 10 July.

Other signatures include Olly Alexander from Years & Years, trans activist Munroe Bergdorf, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, actor Alan Cumming, writer Russell T. Davies, comedian Mae Martin, Liberal Democrat leadership contender Layla Moran, co-founder of UK Black Pride Phyll Opoku-Gyimah and singers Rina Sawayama and Charli XCX.