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Humanists UK comment on Government commitment to end conversion therapy

The Government has announced that it will bring forward proposals to end the practice of ‘conversion therapy’, including where it occurs in religious settings, as part of its LGBT Action Plan launched on Tuesday. Humanists UK, which has repeatedly called for such a ban, including at the UN Human Rights Council in June, has welcomed this announcement.

The LGBT Action Plan states that ‘conversion therapy’ activities ‘are wrong, and we are not willing to let them continue. Led by the Government Equalities Office, we will fully consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy. Our intent is protect people who are vulnerable to harm or violence, whether that occurs in a medical, commercial or faith-based context.’

Despite the British Psychological Society stating that conversion therapies have the potential to cause harm, it remains a significant problem within the UK. A 2015 survey by Stonewall found that 10% of health and social care staff in the UK have witnessed a colleague express the belief that homosexuality can be cured. There is also evidence that such pseudo-treatments are occurring in religious settings and are carried out by religious leaders. Such bans are already in place in several European countries and ten states in the US.

The LGBT Action Plan also reinforces the Government’s commitment to introduce statutory relationships and sex education that is LGBT inclusive in both primary and secondary schools. The Government ‘will ensure that the guidance supports teaching that is age appropriate and relevant to all pupils, whatever their developing sexual orientation or gender identity.’

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The Government’s commitment to introducing a ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’, as well as its wider reforms to advance LGBT equality are hugely welcome. We cannot achieve true equality and respect for LGBT rights whilst harmful, prejudiced, and discriminatory practices are permitted to take place, regardless of where those practices are occuring.

‘The right to manifest one’s religious beliefs, whether they be prejudiced or not, is limited by law if such manifestation damages either the health or morals of society, or if it infringes upon the rights of others. “Conversion therapy” most certainly infringes upon all three.’

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