I take this issue very seriously and I know that my colleagues in the Equalities Office remain committed to tackling conversion therapy in the UK. I am absolutely clear that this practice has no place in civilised society. Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not an illness to be treated or cured.
I am encouraged that this view is shared by the head of the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the British Medical Association. Each of these bodies have concluded that such therapy is unethical and potentially harmful.
The Government Equalities’ Office commissioned a large-scale LGBT survey in 2017. Sadly, two per cent of respondents to the national LGBT survey said they had undergone conversion therapy in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being LGBT. Unfortunately, in this survey, what conversion therapy entailed was not defined, nor were the respondents asked whether or not the conversion therapy referred to in their answer was offered in the UK.
I welcome the fact that the Government is delivering on its promise and will legislate to ban conversion therapy to protect LGBT people from this harmful practice.
The Government launched a six-week consultation on how Ministers plan to ban practices of so called 'conversion therapy'. The consultation was due to close on 10th December but has now been extended by eight weeks, this is to ensure that the widest possible views are being taken into account. I understand that the consultation has already taken views from members of the public, victims of conversion therapy, LGBT organisations, faith groups, psychiatric and counselling bodies, charities and other interested stakeholders to ensure we hear from all voices in shaping the ban on conversion therapy. However, the consultation will now close on 4 February, in order to allow ample opportunity for those to contribute who have not yet been able to do so. As such, I would therefore encourage you to take part at the following link - https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/banning-conversion-therapy.
The Government's proposals include the creation of a new criminal offence and we will also ensure that conversion therapy is considered by judges as a potential aggravating factor upon sentencing for existing violent criminal offences. Ministers further propose a range of other supportive measures including the introduction of statutory Conversion Therapy Protection Orders to protect individuals facing imminent risk, such as forced travel abroad to receive conversion therapy.
The Equality Hub is engaging with a wide range of stakeholders who hold different views in relation to conversion therapy. Ministers have been clear that the recently launched consultation is looking into how, not whether, to ban conversion therapy. I welcome this approach to engage with everyone who has an interest in this area. I will continue to follow this closely and look forward to reviewing the Government's final proposals when they are released.
I would like to reassure you that the results will be analysed and will inform the Government's next steps in preparing legislation for spring 2022.
I am positive about the steps that have been made so far in the UK to achieve LGBT equality, and am confident that this good work will continue.