ACP Statement on Government Proposals to Ban Conversion Therapy
As the professional body for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists working in the NHS, third sector and independently with children and young people up to age 25, the ACP has responded to the government’s proposals to introduce legislation banning conversion therapy which has the intention of changing someone’s sexual orientation or changing them to or from transgender.
The ACP supports government proposals to ban conversion therapy and to introduce a package of measures for those who have been victims of conversion therapy. There is no justification for these coercive and abhorrent practices that cause harm to those who go through it. We support proposals to strengthen the UK’s legislative frameworks to prevent and tackle discrimination against LGBT+ people.
We want the proposed legislation to be effective in its intention of ending the practice of conversion therapy and safeguarding vulnerable children and young people. We also want to assist government in the intention of ensuring that legitimate forms of psychotherapy and other mental health practices can be delivered safely and effectively to those LGBT+ people who require them.
It is crucial that the legislation includes a detailed definition of conversion therapy so that everyone concerned is clear when a criminal offence may have been committed, to avoid the possibility of false or mistaken allegations. Our view is that the use of the word ‘therapy’ in this context is unhelpful as therapy should only refer to practice which respects the freedom of a patient and enhances their wellbeing.
The definition of conversion practices needs to make a clear distinction between an ethical professional dialogue and an attempt to pressurise someone into making choices that are not right for them, i.e. to push or coerce them in one direction or another. Specifically, it is important that legislation makes clear that therapeutic interventions that involve supporting children and young people to explore their sexuality and gender preference are not unlawful and criminalised by this legislation.
We have asked that a process of pre-legislative scrutiny is undertaken, to enable a range of experts to contribute to the legislation and to which the ACP would be pleased to contribute.
Update April 2022
Since the end of the consultation period, it has been announced that legislation to ban conversion therapy will be included in the next Queen’s speech but that it will only cover practices that attempt to change people's sexuality, not their gender. The ACP’s view is that there is no justification for these coercive and abhorrent practices and that legislation should protect all members of society equally. We hope that there will be further opportunities to input on the proposed legislation to ensure it is effective in its intention of ending the practice of conversion therapy and safeguarding vulnerable children and young people.