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Labour is calling on the Government to apologise to LGBTQ people for wasting “half a decade failing” to ban conversion therapy, i can reveal.
Anneliese Dodds, the shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said the absence of the ban in the King’s Speech earlier this month was a failure “to keep LGBT+ people safe from abuse”, and accused the Government of treating the community as a “political football”.
In a letter to the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, which has been shared with i, Ms Dodds wrote: “Your party has wasted half a decade failing to grip this issue.
“People at risk of these abhorrent practices can’t wait any longer for this abuse to be banned.”
The issue was included in the final two Queen’s Speeches in 2021 and 2022 but was never enacted. After much speculation about whether it would be mentioned in the King’s Speech earlier this month, it was omitted, leading to speculation that the Government has dropped the pledge.
Since July 2018, when then prime minister Theresa May first promised to outlaw “cures” for LGBT people, the Government has repeatedly pledged to introduce a ban. It commissioned research into conversion therapy and held a consultation on the subject, which was then extended.
Boris Johnson dropped the idea altogether last year, then U-turned following criticism from within his own party. It was then revealed that the ban would leave transgender people out of the proposed legislation, prompting a backlash from LGBTQ charities.
The final iteration of the proposals was reported to omit adults who consented to conversion practices, despite many victims only consenting under duress from their family or religious community.
Ms Dodds’ letter said: “We have seen the shameful spectacle of your party flip-flopping back and forward on whether a ban should include trans people, speculation that a ban should include loopholes on the spurious grounds of consent and even the bizarre situation where you were reported briefing against your own policy.
“LGBT+ people deserve a whole lot better than to be used as a political football or treated as an afterthought by your party. For a start, they deserve an apology. So my question to you is this: will you apologise for the repeated failures of your government to introduce legislation to outlaw these abusive practices?”
The letter is due to be sent on the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on 20 November and one day after the 20th anniversary of the repeal of Section 28, the legislation introduced by the Conservative government in 1988, which effectively gagged teachers from discussing homosexuality in schools.
Ms Dodds said a Labour government “would ban all forms of conversion therapy outright”.
“Conversion therapy, including on trans people, is an abhorrent practice and we support the view of the BMA [British Medical Association] and Mind [the mental health charity] that it is psychologically damaging abuse.”
She added: “If you can’t fulfil your promise, Labour will finish the job, with a full, trans-inclusive, no-loopholes ban on so-called conversion therapy.”
The Government’s stalling on legislation has in part been driven by concerns among some of its MPs that it could prevent therapists or doctors being able to properly explore patients’ gender identity without falling foul of the law. Labour said its ban would only cover practices which deliberately set out to make the patient heterosexual or cisgender as the end goal.
Counselling and psychotherapy which is not conversion therapy is either called “affirmative” or “non-directive” therapy, as it does not seek to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of the patient. Labour said it would not prevent doctors, teachers, parents or pastors from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation but rather would ban deliberate attempts to turn gay people straight or trans people cisgender.
Ms Dodds told i: “So-called conversion therapy is abuse, there is no other word for it. It is shameful that the Conservatives have chosen to play political games rather than getting on and banning it outright.
“After half a decade of failure, this exhausted Government is running out of time. All that is left for Kemi Badenoch to do is apologise.”
The National LGBT Survey conducted by the Government in 2018 found that 7 per cent of LGBT people in Britain have either been offered or have undergone conversion therapy. Decades of evidence shows it leads to worse mental health, including depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
Several countries have introduced laws prohibiting conversion practices including New Zealand, Germany, Ecuador, and Malta. Several more nations are in the process of banning it, such as Canada, France and Spain.
Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ charity, said: “Banning conversion therapy is backed by the entire medical establishment, faith leaders from all communities, including the Church of England, and the British public (including 60 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters). There is even overwhelming support across all political parties, so the question remains, why did the UK Government decide that LGBTQ+ people no longer deserve protection?”
Ahead of the King’s Speech, equalities minister Stuart Andrew apologised for the delay over the legislation, adding “it is a very complex issue”.
“It is right that we take the time to carefully consider each of those issues so that actually what we have in place is consistent, is robust, and is up-to-date and tackles these appalling practices.”
The Government’s Equality Hub told i: “We are still considering this complex issue.”