Why is conversion therapy still legal in the UK?

Over 1,000 days since the government initially promised to ban the cruel anti-LGBTQ+ practice, campaigners are still demanding definitive action.

Conversion therapy is the widely discredited and often cruel pseudo-scientific practice that many LGBTQ+ people have suffered through in an attempt to ‘cure’ their identity.

In 2018, a study conducted by the Ozanne Foundation revealed that 68.7% of all participants experienced suicidal thoughts or long-term mental health impacts after undergoing the process.

However, despite this alarming discovery alongside condemnation by the WHO – and more than 60 health professional associations from over 20 countries who warn it has a ‘destructive effect on people’s lives from a very early age’ – the outdated practice remains legal in the UK.

That’s regardless of promises made by the government over 1,000 days ago to finally put in place a legislative ban because even though it’s prohibited by all major UK health services, a recent report by the National LGBT Survey found that 7% of LGBTQ+ people have been offered or subjected to it.

Now, campaigners and representatives from eight political parties are demanding definitive action. In a joint letter written to equalities minister Liz Truss, they wrote that the ‘longer we wait, the weaker the words an intentions sound.’ And rightly so, as with every passing day there is another person at risk of being subjected to a degrading treatment that has no place in civil society.

In response, MPs have claimed that the government is indeed ‘committed to ending it’ and that it takes the issue ‘very seriously,’ but that it’s a difficult problem to deal with.

‘I think this practice is repulsive and abhorrent,’ PM Boris Johnson told reporters last month. ‘It is technically complex to deal with, but we’re determined to take further steps to stamp it out.’

This announcement was, understandably, met with cautious optimism from activists and supporters who attribute their apprehension to the fact that three advisors from the government’s LGBTQ+ advisory panel have recently resigned over concerns that it’s acting too slowly.

‘Although we’re pleased to hear that the prime minister backs a ban, we will not celebrate until a full ban is enacted,’ say activist group Ban Conversion Therapy.

‘We do not need a study. We do not need a public poll. We do not need empty words. We need meaningful action. We need a comprehensive ban on this horrific and torturous practice once and for all.’

This ‘meaningful action’ that the group refers to would essentially comprise a robust criminal law framework put in place to deal with the worst examples and protect vulnerable LGBTQ+ people.

Find out more on Stonewall’s website and if you want to get involved, email your MP here.

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