In a significant development for LGBTQ+ rights in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced plans to include legislation proposing a ban on conversion therapy in the forthcoming speech to the nation by King Charles III. This move follows a turbulent journey in the Conservative Party’s stance on this issue. Former Prime Minister Theresa May had initially pledged to ban conversion therapy in 2018, but her successor, Boris Johnson, had vacillated on the matter.
The Conservative Party, of which Sunak is a member, has been internally divided on the issue. However, recent advice from party leaders has encouraged the prime minister to proceed with the ban. Concerns have been raised within the party about potential membership losses and a loss of support from the LGBTQ+ community if action is not taken, as reported by The Guardian.
The proposed legislation is expected to encompass a ban on efforts to change both gender identity and sexual orientation. Advocates for LGBTQ+ rights had strongly emphasized the importance of transgender inclusion in any such bill. While many American states have already banned conversion therapy for young people, the UK legislation appears to be comprehensive, addressing the practice for both youth and adults.
Positive Reactions and Concerns
Pro-equality politicians and activists have welcomed the government’s move towards banning conversion therapy. Caroline Nokes, a Member of Parliament who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee in the House of Commons, described it as “excellent news.” She stated, “Conversion therapy is abhorrent, and we must move to stop people suffering from horrendous practices, which simply cannot ever be described as therapy.”
However, the announcement of this bill comes in the wake of some troubling remarks made by leading UK politicians, including Prime Minister Sunak. His recent statement challenging the concept of gender identity garnered criticism from the LGBTQ+ community. Belgium’s deputy prime minister, Petra De Sutter, expressed disappointment and condemned Sunak’s comments, noting that such rhetoric fuels transphobia and endangers lives.
At the Conservative Party’s annual convention, Home Secretary Suella Braverman also criticized what she referred to as “gender ideology,” drawing concern from LGBTQ+ activists. Additionally, Andrew Boff, a gay member of the London Assembly, raised objections to the use of the term “gender ideology” and was subsequently ejected from the meeting. Boff later asserted that the term is merely a signal to those who hold prejudice against LGBTQ+ individuals.
Braverman further stirred controversy at the convention by claiming that some asylum seekers in the UK pretend to be gay to gain admission, a statement that has drawn scrutiny and calls for more inclusive policies.
As the UK progresses toward banning conversion therapy, it faces both support for LGBTQ+ rights and challenges related to divisive rhetoric and political stances within the government. The coming months will undoubtedly see extensive debates and discussions surrounding this significant legislative proposal.