LGBT+ campaigners are demanding that the government keeps Boris Johnson’s assurance to outlaw conversion therapy in England and Wales. Three advisers have now quit the government’s LGBT+ advisory panel over unease that legislation is not moving fast enough.
Conversion therapy uses treatments such as psychotherapy and religious teaching in an effort to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Some countries already ban it and the Prime Minister has referred to it as an ‘abhorrent’ practice.
Although ministers have said they will work quickly to stop the practice, Labour says the government has a ‘blind spot’ about it which Boris Johnson needs to address.
The equalities minister Kemi Badenoch spoke in parliament this week about conversion therapy. Although she said the practice had ‘no place in a civilised society,’ she maintained that the UK already had ‘robust’ laws to deal with the most troubling examples, involving violence and sexual assault.
A ban on all types of conversion therapy, not simply the most distressing types, is required
She also said that the government did not wish to prevent people from seeking “spiritual counselling as they explore their sexual orientation.”
This statement is a red light for LGBT+ groups and campaigners, such as Stonewall, the LGBT Foundation and Trans Media Watch. They maintain that a ban on all types of LGBT+ conversion therapy, not simply the most distressing types, is required.
In a letter to Kemi Badenoch, the groups said they had ‘deep concern’ over Kemi Badenoch’s remarks, which, they said, appeared to ”imply that you have been meeting with perpetrators of conversion therapy and those who want the practice to continue.’
In the letter they also said, ‘This is very worrying and gives the impression that the government is more interested in appeasing the extreme fringes of religious people, despite the calls for a ban from senior religious leaders from across a wide range of faiths.’
Jayne Ozanne who is one of the advisers to quit the LGBT+ panel said Kemi Badenoch should ‘consider her position.’
‘I’ve been increasingly concerned about what is seen to be a hostile environment for LGBT people among this administration,’ she explained in an interview with ITV.
Ms Ozanne said both Ms Truss and Kemi Badenoch were known in the LGBT+ community as the “ministers for inequality.”
‘Over the years which the advisory panel has met, we’ve seen an increasing lack of engagement and the actions of ministers have frankly been against our advice.’
The LGBT+ advisory panel consists of independent advisers appointed by the women and equalities minister, Liz Truss, to offer insight, expertise and guidance on LGBT issues.
Ms Ozanne said both Ms Truss and Kemi Badenoch were known in the LGBT+ community as the ‘ministers for inequality.’
She expressed exasperation at what she described as Ms Badenoch’s lack of understanding about the LGBT+ community, saying she should stand aside and make way for someone who ‘had more heart for the work.’
‘I’ve sat in meetings and I’ve been astonished about how ignorant they are on issues that affect the real lives, particularly of younger people,’ Ms Ozanne said.
She expressed fears that the Tories were ‘going back to the days’ of Margaret Thatcher and Section 28, a law that prevented the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities.
Ms Ozanne said, ‘The language that I hear from them is of us being woke, or of being loud lobby groups, and what they don’t seem to understand is the reason we have to shout is because we are hurting, because there are people who are vulnerable who are going unheard and unnoticed.
‘I do not believe this Tory government, sadly, have the best wishes of the LGBT community at heart,’ she concluded. ‘Instead we seem to have a Trumpesque mode of operation where they’re listening to the right-wing evangelicals and those frankly who want to take us back.’
[Header Image Ian Davidson Photography Shutterstock]