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Government to announce law banning ‘conversion therapy’

The government is finally set to announce a new law banning so-called conversion therapy.

ITV News understands that the ban - due to be announced this week - will outlaw attempts to change a person’s sexuality and also attempts to change someone’s gender identity.

The government had previously said that trans conversion therapy would be excluded from a ban.

It’s understood that Downing Street has been surprised by the level of cross-party support - including from within the Conservative Party - for a total ban.

Last March ITV News was passed a leaked document which detailed Boris Johnson’s plans to quietly drop the ban, which was first promised by Theresa May in 2018.

However, following the leak Downing Street swiftly u-turned and a ban on conversion therapy relating to a person’s sexuality was later announced in last year’s Queen’s Speech.

Now the government will announce the imminent introduction of the bill itself, which is the next stage in delivering its manifesto pledge.

However, the legislation won’t be published in full until later, at which stage MPs will be able to scrutinise the exact wording.

ITV News is told that No10 is overseeing the shape of the ban, rather than the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch.

The UK government is keen to announce progress before the Welsh government is due to propose its own attempt to legislate at a devolved level.

However, outstanding questions remain about what the UK government’s bill will cover.

Firstly, will it include conversion therapy that an individual has consented to?

Campaigners say that most people consent to conversion therapy without realising the potential harm, and that therefore any ban which does not include consenting adults would be toothless.

Secondly, it is unknown whether a ban will include religious practices. Previous promises have included loopholes to exclude religious guidance, which again campaigners say would allow some of the most common practices to continue.

There is also likely to be opposition from some quarters both within and outside parliament for a ban on trans conversion therapy, with some arguing that the law may inadvertently criminalise important discussion of a person’s gender identity.

The exact timeframe for passing legislation is yet to be agreed, but ITV News understands that the government is promising to complete the passage of the bill before the next election.

Jayne Ozanne, former equalities advisor to No10 and campaigner for a ban on conversion therapy: “It's good to hear that finally, after nearly 5 years, we are going to get the legislative ban that we have been so long-promised.

"I'm relieved to learn that the government will include full protections for trans people, but remain concerned that large loopholes may be created regarding whether someone can supposedly 'consent' and on religious practices.

"The latter is by far the most common form in the UK and must be stopped if LGB+ lives are to be protected from this horrific abuse.”

In October last year, the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also promised a total ban on conversion therapy, meaning that if there is a change in government before the law has been passed, his party would still implement a ban.

But this week’s announcement is just one step in a long series of forwards and backwards moves by the government. A fully implemented ban is still some way off.


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