Ministers yesterday took the first step towards banning all forms of gay conversion therapy.
Liz Truss, the equalities minister, announced a six-week consultation on how to legislate against the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual preferences through counselling.
While violent forms of the therapy are already covered under other offences, the proposals would make all coercive conversion therapies illegal.
Ministers said safeguarding under-18s is a priority and pledged that future laws will place a strong emphasis on preventing children undergoing any practices considered to be conversion therapies.
Miss Truss said: ‘There should be no place for the abhorrent practice of coercive conversion therapy in our society.
Liz Truss said the announcement sets out plans on how the Government will ‘ban an archaic practice’
‘Today we are publishing detailed proposals that will stop appalling conversion therapies and make sure LGBT people can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse.
‘I want everyone to be able to love who they want and be themselves.
‘Today’s announcement sets out how we will ban an archaic practice that has no place in modern life.’
But critics said the plans should have gone further and outlawed all conversion therapy.
Ministers will legislate to ensure that, when existing violent offences are motivated by conversion therapy, this is considered as a potential aggravating factor when the perpetrator is sentenced.
They also propose to create a new offence for talking therapies that seek to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, to be punishable by imprisonment of up to five years.
This would apply to under-18s under any circumstance and to adults who have not freely consented and been fully informed about the potential impacts.
The GEO said consent requirements would be ‘robust and stringent’.
It acknowledged some believe that an adult cannot consent even when fully aware of the potential for being harmed, but said it is the Government’s view that “the freedom for an adult to enter such an arrangement should be protected”.
The Government has launched a six-week public consultation which will close on December 10, after which it will prepare and introduce legislation by spring 2022.
It said any future laws would place a particularly strong emphasis on protecting children, given their inherent vulnerability.
They will also ensure regulated clinicians are able to continue their work to support those who may be questioning if they are LGBT.
Individuals would be free to seek professional help and guidance under the proposals, which will target practices which people have not willingly agreed to.
The six-week public consultation on on how to legislate against the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual preferences through counselling will end on December 10
The proposals will cover attempts to change a person from being attracted to the same-sex to being attracted to the opposite-sex, or from not being transgender to being transgender, and vice-versa.
The consultation document reads: ‘The Government is determined to ensure that no person is put on a clinical pathway that is not right for them, and that young people are supported in exploring their identity without being encouraged towards one particular path.’
This is particularly the case for young people where this may result in an ‘irreversible decision’, it adds.
The GEO said simply expressing the teachings of a religion will not constitute conversion therapy, and it cannot be ‘reasonably understood’ to include casual conversations or private prayer.
It said it will continue to work with faith communities to develop an approach that protects people while respecting the right to freedom of religion and belief.