The devolved governments in Wales and Scotland have expressed their commitment to banning “draconian” conversion therapy in all forms, in spite of Boris Johnson.
Johnson was widely condemned after first U-turning on plans to ban conversion therapy, before changing tack and promising that a ban would be forthcoming – though reportedly, it will now not include trans conversion therapy.
After initially stating that the government would pursue non-legislative measures against conversion therapy, a spokesperson told PinkNews on Friday (1 April): “The government has a proud record on LGBT rights, and the prime minister is committed to bringing forward legislation to ban conversion therapy.
“The content, scope and timing of the proposed bill will be confirmed in due course.”
Representatives for Wales and Scotland have both released official statements affirming their commitments to banning conversion therapy in the wake of the two U-turns.
Though Scotland is not affected by Boris Johnson’s plans – the UK government had already said its ban would be for England and Wales only – a minister said in a statement that the practice has “no place in our society”.
Christina McKelvie, minister for equalities and older people, said: “Conversion practices that try to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity are harmful, discriminatory, and have no place in our society.
“We are committed to ensuring Scotland has legislation that will be comprehensive in banning conversion practices as far as possible within our devolved competences while safeguarding the freedoms of speech, religion and belief.
“We are also considering what non-legislative steps we can take to end conversion practices, and support survivors.”
Wales has expressed its desire to ban conversion therapy even if it is not possible within the legislation Johnson will set out, stating that the Welsh government is seeking “urgent legal advice” on the action it is able to take as a devolved nation.
Deputy minister for social partnership, Hannah Blythyn, said: “Yesterday I became aware of UK government documents and a statement from Downing Street that Prime Minister Boris Johnson intended on abandoning the very clear commitments made to end the draconian practice of conversion ‘therapy’.
“It appears today that the rightful public backlash has resulted in a partial reversal of this minus the critical protections that were promised to the transgender community.
“This is unacceptable, and the partial U-turn is not a victory. The LGBTQ+ community stands as one, and none of us are equal while our rights are up for discussion or barter.
“Today, I can announce that the Welsh government will be commissioning urgent legal advice on the unilateral action we are able to take to ban conversion ‘therapy’. We will do all we can within our devolved powers to protect our LGBTQ+ community. We can no longer have faith that the UK government will do the same.
“We will also seek the devolution of any necessary additional powers required to see this through.”
Just weeks ago, on 4 March, equalities minister Mike Freer promised that a conversion therapy ban would be forthcoming, and that it would cover religious practices and all LGBT+ people – including trans people.
A public consultation document on the subject was published in October 2021, but the proposal contained loopholes which would permit “consenting” adults to undergo conversion therapy (experts say consent is not possible in such a scenario) and had religious carve-outs.
In the time that the UK has continued to delay, Canada, France, New Zealand and India have all put comprehensive bans on the practice in place.