Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

The UK government has today announced its intention to publish a draft bill to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for all – though its exact details remain unclear.

“We will be publishing a draft bill to ban conversion practices, protecting everyone,” a government spokesperson confirmed on 17 January.

“The Bill will go through pre legislative scrutiny in this parliamentary session. We hope to send it to a Joint Committee for scrutiny and will work with the Liaison Committee accordingly.

“There are clearly issues that are not fully resolved. We are determined that legislation will not cause harm to children and young adults experiencing gender related distress by inadvertently impacting on legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children.

“Pre legislative scrutiny exists to prevent this, and other unintended consequences, by utilising stakeholder expertise and input from parliamentarians.”

Exact details of the government’s proposed ‘conversion therapy’ ban are yet to be announced beyond the promise it will protect “everyone”.

Whether or not it will be fully comprehensive or include any loopholes (religious or otherwise) that allow these practices to continue in the UK is yet to be determined.

‘Conversion therapy’ is typically defined as any attempt at changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality or gender identity, often involving techniques such as electroshock therapy or prayer.

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.

Although the news has been welcomed by LGBTQ+ activists and organisations, some feel it is a slow step towards what was first promised by the Conservative Party in 2018. 

Jayne Ozanne, who chairs the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition and resigned from the government’s LGBT advisory panel in 2021 after accusing it of creating a hostile environment for the community, tweeted: “Goodness, just how much longer can @GEOgovuk drag this process out?! Now we’re to have Pre-Legislative Scrutiny, which even though I’m assured it’ll be swift is still yet more delay.

“I await to see whether this will be a meaningful ban without any loopholes…trust is very low!”

Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive of Stonewall, also welcomed the statement “indicating progress towards the UK Government’s commitment to a legislative ban on conversion practices,” though noted that this has “faced delay after delay”.

“The UK Government must publish the Bill and an imminent timetable as soon as possible,” she continued. “The UK Government’s own National LGBT Survey shows that 13 per cent of trans people, and 7 per cent of all LGBTQIA+ people have undergone or been offered so-called conversion therapy. Our communities simply cannot face any further delays.”

Exact details of the legislation will become clearer with time, though it is important to note that today’s announcement doesn’t emphasise the importance of religious freedom or informed consent as prior statements from the government have. 

Instead, there is a focus on ensuring that legitimate conversations surrounding sexuality and gender are not “inadvertently criminalised” in the bill.