Thank you for contacting me about proposals to ban conversion therapy (CT).
I will want to see the final shape of any proposals for legislation before committing myself on how I might vote in the House.
I note that legislation in the few countries that have banned CT generally focuses on medical treatments and situations in which consent is absent.
In the meantime, i have a number of concerns. In my view, if legislation is to be brought forward, it must
- define clearly and precisely what is covered by any ban
- not criminalise consensual conversations between adults
- not criminalise legitimate pastoral guidance in a religious setting which has been freely sought by a responsible adult
- not criminalise non-coercive, non-abusive parental guidance of their children.
I understand that there is concern that some of the very broad definitions of what activities would be covered by a ban would criminalise consensual exchanges between adults: on civil liberties grounds, I can see substantial objections to such an outcome.
The Government has provided a more detailed account of what is proposed, the key points of which are as follows:
Our proposals protect everyone, whatever their sexual orientation or whether they are transgender or not. An attempt to change a person from being attracted to the same-sex to being attracted to the opposite-sex will be treated in the same way as the reverse scenario. An attempt to change someone to or from being transgender will also be treated in the same way.
All forms of conversion therapy will be banned for under-18s regardless of circumstances. When violent offences are motivated by conversion therapy, this will be considered as a potential aggravating factor by the judge upon sentencing by a court. This will strengthen the criminal legal framework and acknowledge the harm of physical acts that are committed as part of a conversion therapy practice.
In addition to the above, talking conversion therapies will be banned for all aged 18 and over who do not or cannot give consent. Consent requirements for adults seeking out talking conversion therapy will be robust and stringent.
For consent to be valid in the context of an 18+ year old entering talking therapy, it must be:
● Voluntary – the decision to either consent or not to consent to an act must be made by the person, and must not be influenced by others.
● Informed – the person must be given all of the information about what the therapy involves, including the risks.
● Capacity – the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and can use it to make an informed decision.
Our proposed package of measures will not impact everyday religious practice and we are clear that private prayer of course could not be considered to be conversion therapy. The freedom to express the teachings of any religion will not be affected by the ban, and there should be no doubt that individuals will still be able to access support and counsel from religious leaders.
In regard to healthcare, our proposals will complement the existing clinical regulatory framework and not interfere with the independence of clinicians to support those who may be questioning if they are LGBT, in line with professional obligations. The Government will work with the relevant authorities to ensure that our legislative interventions operate as intended with no unintended impact on clinical practitioners.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP