After widespread backlash from LGBTQ+ rights activists and politicians alike, the United Kingdom is set to see legislation banning conversion therapy after all, with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak planning to introduce a draft bill to parliament.
As reported by local media, including The Times and ITV News, Rishi Sunak is set to introduce a draft bill criminalising attempts to alter someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity in England and Wales. This announcement comes a day after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) urged Sunak to make this a part of his legislative agenda.
Earlier this year, there were speculations that Sunak might abandon the bill, citing potential “unintended repercussions” for educators, parents, and healthcare providers engaged with minors grappling with their gender identities. However, ITV News Editor Paul Brand clarified via social media that the legislation would focus exclusively on “coercive” actions and include protective clauses for parents and medical professionals.
According to insiders, Chief Whip Simon Hart cautioned Sunak about the possibility of a parliamentary uprising if the bill isn’t put forward. Hart’s warning suggests that Conservative MPs could collaborate with Labour MPs to make legislative changes as an alternative route for establishing a ban on conversion therapy.
Stuart Andrew, the Minister for Equalities, has indicated that he might reconsider his role in the government if the legislation fails to materialise. Conversion therapy survivor and former government equalities advisor Jayne Ozanne expressed relief and concern about the recent developments. She emphasised that making victims demonstrate coercion could undermine the legislation’s effectiveness.
Reverend Dr Helen Hall, an advocate against conversion therapy, also argued that asking victims to prove coercion could further victimise them, likening the situation to the recent change in the UK’s marriage age laws.
The legislation against conversion therapy has a fraught history. Although initially promised by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018, the initiative faced setbacks and delays under her successor, Boris Johnson. Johnson had originally planned to exclude trans individuals from the proposed ban but reversed his decision following public backlash. Despite promises to introduce a draft bill early this year, no such legislation has yet been made public.