Rishi Sunak has been accused of failing victims of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ as survivors continue to wait for legislation banning it.

In an open letter sent to both the Prime Minister and the equalities minister Kemi Badenoch on 17 July, a number of senior parliamentarians, religious leaders, medical professionals, human rights leaders and prominent LGBTQ+ voices called on the government to fulfil its promise of outlawing the harmful practice.

“Not only has the delay damaged the lives of countless vulnerable LGBT+ victims, it has also emboldened perpetrators to act with impunity,” part of the letter, seen by GAY TIMES, said.

“In the five years since the UK government announced its positive intention to end these abusive practices, many other governments around the world have acted swiftly to do so. Why have we not learnt from them, but instead sought to obfuscate and delay?

“Protecting vulnerable people from abuse should be a primary aim of any democracy. We therefore urge you to fulfil your promise and publish the long-awaited legislation immediately. It is time to end these unethical, harmful and ineffective practices that have been condemned by religious leaders and by medical, psychiatric, psychological and healthcare professionals worldwide.”

Its signatories include Caroline Nokes, a Conservative MP who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, Iain Anderson, Stonewall’s Chair of Trustees, Leni Morris, the CEO of LGBTQ+ anti-abuse charity Galop, Dilwar Hussain, Co-Chair of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBTQ+ Lives and Professor Ilias Trispiotis, Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Leeds, among dozens of others.

The ban is reportedly awaiting sign off from the Prime Minister

The letter comes a month after ITV News reported that a draft bill of the government’s long-awaited ‘conversion therapy’ ban was complete and awaiting sign off from the Prime Minister.

However, it reportedly includes a ‘consent clause’ for adults who wish to ‘volunteer’ for the harmful practice, much to the dismay of campaigners who have fought tirelessly for an all-encompassing ban.

READ MORE: UK’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban ‘on PM’s desk’ – but includes a ‘consent clause’

The bill had been expected ahead of the summer recess getting underway, though with it due to begin on 22 July this is now incredibly unlikely – meaning it will not undergo pre-legislative scrutiny until the autumn.

“This broad coalition of voices seeking to call out the damage to innocent LGBT+ people’s lives the ongoing delay is causing is unique,” Jayne Ozanne, the organiser of the letter and Chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition, said. “I urge the Prime Minister to heed our concerns, not least from his own MPs, given that people’s lives are at stake. To do otherwise is totally unconscionable.”

The government has been promising a ban since 2018

‘Conversion therapy’ is typically defined as any attempt at changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality or gender identity and often involves techniques such as intensive prayer and, in some cases, electroshock therapy.

It has been widely condemned by health experts and bodies all over the world, including the National Health Service and the World Health Organisation, with some comparing it to torture.

READ MORE: 93% of LGBTQ+ people want ‘conversion therapy’ banned for all

A commitment to banning it was first made by Theresa May’s administration in 2018, with the exact form the legislation will take being the subject of intense debate in the UK since then.

Boris Johnson’s government made a number of backtracks to these promises, resulting in fear from the LGBTQ+ community that the legislation would not include protections for all.

The draft bill is, however, said to cover attempts to change both someone’s sexuality and gender identity – though campaigners remain concerned that the ‘consent’ loophole makes the legislation redundant.