Thank you for contacting me about conversion therapy.
I understand that the Government has now confirmed that transgender conversion therapy will be included in the ban. The Bill will be published shortly, and ministers say it will cover conversion therapy dealing with sexuality and being transgender.
My colleagues and I will scrutinise this legislation carefully as this is a complex area and legislation to ban transgender conversion therapy must not harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender-related distress through inadvertently criminalising or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children. This is a particular concern given the overwhelming evidence that children and young people who present as gender dysphoric in fact have other problems which need addressing or may simply be coming to terms with being gay often in environments in which being gay is not acceptable.
I understand that the Bill will strengthen existing criminal law by ensuring that violent conversion therapy is recognised as a potential aggravating factor upon sentencing, as well as making sure those found guilty of conversion therapy offences have any profit obtained from those crimes removed.
Further, I am told that it will protect freedom of speech, ensuring parents, clinicians and teachers can continue to have conversations with people seeking support. I have been assured that the legislation will not impact the existing professional frameworks that guide clinicians' ability to support people. As such, robust, exploratory and challenging conversations which are part of regulated care do not fall within the scope of the ban. It will protect under-18s regardless of circumstance and over-18s who do not consent and are forced or coerced to undergo conversion therapy practices. Indeed, the Minister for Equalities has insisted that the Government has no intention to stop parents, clinicians, teachers, or anyone else from having open and explorative conversations with young people or others about their sexual orientation or whether they are transgender or not.
I understand that there have been concerns amongst religious leaders, who have warned that the Conversion Therapy Bill could prevent them from teaching traditional Christian values. I am aware that the Government has said that the proposals outlined to ban conversion therapy will not impact everyday religious practice, and that there should be no doubt that individuals will still be able to access support and counsel from religious leaders.
It is vital that adults' freedom of choice to make decisions about their own lives is protected, as long as they have capacity, and that freedoms of thought, expression and association are upheld. The defence of liberty is not a loophole.
Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.
Craig Whittaker MP