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Responses to the government consultation on banning conversion therapy

The government’s consultation on conversion therapy has now closed, and the responses are being analysed.

More than a thousand people used the form on our website to send the government their own responses to the consultation.

Even though the consultation has closed, you can still go and talk to your MP. Use this page to check what they need to know, make an appointment, and go and see them!

The problem with the proposal to ban conversion therapy

Acts of abuse and violence done in the name of conversion such as electrocution, sexual assault, rape and forced medication are already against the law. The government’s proposals are not supported by any evidence of a problem requiring a new criminal law.

Sexual orientation and “being transgender” (which is not defined) are not equivalent and conversion therapy is not defined. Without clear definitions and evidence we fear that, even with the best of intentions, this legislation will have negative unintended consequences: in particular, pressure to socially transition children, leading to greater pressure for irreversible medical treatment.

The fastest-growing and most brutal form of conversion that is being undertaken today is that involving a growing cohort of children who have been encouraged to believe they were “born in the wrong body” and need their bodies fixed with hormones and surgery. Making them believe that they can literally change sex (and sexual orientation) may lead them to undergo attempts at physical conversion that will impair their sexual function, ability to form relationships and fertility. The Coventry University research ignores all of the literature supporting the case for caution.

Along with the EHRC we argue that there is a need for more evidence, and we call on the government to wait for the recommendations of the Cass Review’s final report before enacting any legislation affecting the treatment of children and young people with gender dysphoria. We also support the EHRC’s call for pre-legislative scrutiny.

The recent disproportionate responses to the EHRC’s consultation response should give cause for concern. These overblown responses demonstrate how a vaguely defined new law to criminalise “conversion therapy” or “practice” would be weaponised to close down debate and in turn to criminalise those who disagree with the organisations that have lobbied for it.

Here is Sex Matters’ full response: