Blog: Government proposals to end ‘conversion therapy’ are a cop out

As UNISON national LGBT+ officer Mitchell Coe examines the problems with the latest UK government proposals and explains how you can add your voice to the consultation that has just opened

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You might have seen in the press that the LGBT+ community has again been let down by the Conservative government in Westminster. After much talk, we finally know that they don’t want to get rid of the practice of conversion therapy in England.

This puts the UK government at odds with the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales, which have pledged to remove this horrendous practice completely. The Northern Irish assembly is the first devolved administration that has voted to ban the practice.

If you don’t know, conversion therapy is a pseudoscience aimed at changing a person’s sexual identity from lesbian, gay or bi+ to heterosexual, or suppress a person’s gender identity and/or gender expression. Our NHS, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other major counselling bodies have called this practice dangerous and harmful and said that it should be banned.

We also know that it definitely doesn’t work. Instead, it causes long-term harm and distress to survivors.

UNISON is clear – conversion therapy is damaging, dangerous and ideologically driven. Nobody should be subjected to psychological treatment for their identity.

So, let’s have a look at what the UK government’s stance on conversion therapy, why it’s unethical and dangerous and what you can do to stop it.

The proposed UK government changes don’t go far enough. They are proposing that conversion therapy is banned completely for anyone under the age of 18 and that it can only be done with express consent for anyone over 18.

They say it’s about choice, but there are many problems with this. Stonewall states that any ban on conversion therapy must be holistic and comprehensive and that people can’t consent to a practice that is abusive.

We know of many people who have suffered long-term trauma and mental health issues such as depression and suicidal tenancies as a direct result of their ‘therapy’ – even if they appealed for such an approach in the first place.

Furthermore, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says these practices are discriminatory and derogatory as they are based on a belief that LGBT+ people are somehow inferior – any endorsement from governments that these practices are allowed to continue, even if consent has to be given, further entrenches this supposed inferiority.

Anything less than a full ban is unacceptable.

But you can help to challenge this.

The online consultation on conversion therapy is now open. This is our chance to state our opposition plainly and ensure all LGBT+ people are safe from this abusive practice.

You can find the link to the UK government consultation here.

We recommend you read the Stonewall guidance before you submit.