The government has refused to consider making gay conversion ‘therapy’ illegal despite requests by MPs and campaigners.
Ministers say they are keeping the highly controversial practice, offered by some church and religious groups as a way to ‘cure’ homosexuality, under close review, but there are no plans for a change in the law.
The Church of England has repeatedly called for it to be banned and Labour MP Sharon Hodgson this week pressed the Home Office on whether it would take action.
She told HuffPost UK: “The issue of gay conversion therapy, and the government’s silence on it, has always been of great concern to me.
“This is something that should have been banished to the history books a long time ago, not a sad and barbaric reality of the 21st century.
“It’s time for the government to recognise their duty in protecting the LGBT community from these heinous practices once and for all.”
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the department was “clear that a person’s sexual orientation is not an illness to be cured”.
“We are not prepared to see such activity continue either in the regulated professional sector or outside of it,” she added.
“The government has already taken steps to prevent the practice of gay conversion therapy in the UK. We have worked with the main registration and accreditation bodies for psychotherapy and counselling practitioners to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to put a stop to this bogus treatment.
“We do not currently have plans to introduce new criminal offences for practising gay conversion therapy, but we are keeping the issue under close review.”
Rossella Nicosia, mental health lead at the LGBT Foundation, said evidence suggested ‘conversion’ therapy had serious implications for the well-being of those who undergo it.
“Nobody should be told that their sexual orientation is a mental health disorder and consequently be offered treatments in order to ‘cure’ their identity,” she added.
“Individuals will often need support with the aftermath of being discriminated against because of their LGBT identity, not to treat their sexual orientation and/or trans status.
“We welcome the steps that the government has taken to date to prevent the practice, but are disappointed that there are no current plans to go further and criminalise the practice in the UK.”
Atkins said the government’s Equalities Office had carried out a survey of the experience of 100,000 LGBT people in the UK – including several questions on gay conversion therapy – the results of which are currently being analysed.
“The government’s response will be published later this year,” the Lincolnshire MP added.
“Due to the significant response rate to the survey, we believe this data will give us a much better view of the scale and significance of conversion therapy in the UK, and it will allow us to investigate further the steps that government as a whole could take to address this issue.”
The LGBT Foundation said it would continue to monitor the government’s response to the problem.
“Will continue to call for the government to condemn such practices and take further steps to ensure they are unavailable,” Nicosia added.
“Offering to change a person’s sexual orientation reinforces the notion that these feelings are wrong or unnatural. This perpetuates the mistaken belief that being LGBT is a disorder needing treatment. Alongside other groups, LGBT Foundation will also continue to offer affirmative support and advice for anyone who is struggling with sexual orientation.”