LGBT Humanists joined other LGBT rights campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament on 14 September to protest against the ongoing delays to the publication of a draft bill on banning conversion therapy. They were joined by members of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group Angela Eagle MP (Labour) and Layla Moran MP (Liberal Democrats).

The draft conversion therapy bill has reportedly been sitting with the Prime Minister since before the summer. The campaigners gathered to say ‘Abuse doesn’t take a summer holiday’ in solidarity with 2,000 members of the public who have written individual postcards to the Prime Minister with their personal pleas for action, in a campaign led by LGBT rights charity Stonewall.

Conversion therapy refers to a range of discredited and harmful practices, usually rooted in false and often pseudoscientific religious beliefs about what causes people to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans. Such practices are distinctive in being designed to effect a predetermined change in an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Evidence shows that they lead to lasting damage for the people subjected to these ‘treatments’ from self-harm to suicide. Victims are often young and vulnerable, and are more likely to face abuse from their families or communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It has been over five years since the Government first announced its commitment to banning these harmful practices. After years of inaction, the Government abandoned its plan to bring forward legislation entirely in March 2022. The subsequent backlash forced the Government to U-turn on this decision the following day.

In January this year, Humanists UK welcomed the news that the Government would publish a draft bill ‘shortly’. However, nine months since that announcement the draft bill still has not been published. After the protest, it was reported that plans for legislation have been cancelled, but the Government has not yet commented on this.

LGBT Humanists Coordinator Nick Baldwin commented: “We are beyond disappointed by the Government’s continued inaction on banning conversion therapy, while LGBT people continue to be subjected to such harmful practices. The Government’s window of opportunity to fulfil its promise to ban conversion therapy before the next general election is getting slimmer and slimmer.

“We will continue to campaign for a conversion therapy ban. And it must be one that is inclusive for all the whole LGBT community.”

The UK Government’s 2018 National LGBT Survey showed that seven per cent of LGBT people had undergone or been offered conversion therapy. Of those who had undergone it, 51 per cent reported that it had been conducted by a religious group or in a religious setting. Such activities can include exorcisms and forced prayer. Humanists UK is strongly committed to freedom of religion or belief, but believes that freedom should be limited where it causes harm, and that conversion therapy is harmful.

Humanists UK believes that when people are experiencing distress over their sexual orientation or gender identity, they should be met with person-centred, therapeutically well-grounded support. They should not face coercive, medically worthless practices that seek to push them in a particular direction.

* Source: Humanists UK