Government anti-conversion therapy bill to be tabled

8 December 2023

Public Policy Researcher Carys Moseley shares the latest political developments on banning so-called ‘conversion therapy’

This past week has seen the return of the endless political merry-go-round on banning ‘conversion therapy’. This is despite the fact that the Prime Minister did not include a bill in the King’s Speech.

On Wednesday, the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch announced that she would publish the government’s draft bill on the topic. She said that the bill would be published for pre-legislative scrutiny. This means it would have its own Parliamentary committee before second reading.

On the same day, Lloyd Russell-Mole (Labour)  pushing a ban. The bill was shown to Paul Brand from ITV News. It is obvious that the real purpose of the private member’s bill was to orchestrate the illusion of support from a small number of backbenchers for it was able to prod the government to publish its own bill.

Kemi Badenoch admits most ‘conversion practices’ are already illegal

Kemi Badenoch’s statement to the House of Commons was longer than usual and needs to be read in full. She started off by admitting that most things that would be covered are already illegal anyway.

“Attempts at so-called conversion therapy are abhorrent and are largely already illegal, so a Bill would identify those practices as a particular threat to gay people and confirm the illegality of harmful processes intended to change someone’s sexuality.”

Shifting the focus to gender identity

Badenoch went on to characterise gender reassignment, focusing on young people in particular, as the relevant form of ‘gay conversion therapy’. She defended this shift by saying that this is what the contemporary evidence shows.

“In the time since that Bill was first promised, the issue has developed. Now, the threat to many young gay people is not conversion relating to their sexuality, but conversion relating to gender identity. Girls such Keira Bell, who was rushed on to puberty blockers by the NHS and had a double mastectomy, now regret the irreversible damage done to them. I believe that this is a new form of conversion therapy. Respected clinicians, such as those who left Tavistock, have made clear that they are fearful of giving honest clinical advice to a child because if they do not automatically affirm and medicalise a child’s new gender, they will be labelled transphobic. Any Bill needs to address many of those issues, and that is why we are going to publish a draft Bill.”

What Badenoch seems to be saying here is that she wants to focus on the harms of physical gender reassignment practices. These have been under intense scrutiny as regards children and adolescents for several years now.

We at Christian Concern have consistently said that conning people into thinking that they can change their gender is the real ‘conversion therapy’. It is great to hear a government minister stating this outright. We will have to wait for the draft bill to see what it actually says.

House of Commons briefing on government policy disappears from the internet

On 1 December. the House of Commons Library published a briefing entitled ‘Government policy on conversion practices’. This Friday mid-morning the briefing was no longer available online, and was also taken off the Wayback Machine. This is the second time this week that this sort of thing has happened.

On Wednesday, Kemi Badenoch started her announcement on LGBT policy by saying the government was laying an order (a Statutory Instrument) to amend the Gender Recognition Act. Specifically, it was intended to amend the list of countries and territories whose systems of gender recognition are approved by the UK. However, Labour MP Stephen Doughty pointed out to her that this Statutory Instrument was not available anywhere including on the Parliament website. Badenoch was unaware of this.

All this raises further questions as to what is really going on in the House of Commons in relation to publishing government policy.

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