‘Gay conversion therapy’ to be banned as part of LGBT equality plan

Controversial “gay conversion therapies” are to be banned as part of a government plan to improve the lives of gay and transgender people.

A national survey of 108,000 members of the LGBT community suggested 2% have undergone the practice with another 5% having been offered it.

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It also found more than two-thirds of LGBT people avoid holding hands in public, for fear of negative reactions.

The prime minister said nobody “should ever to have to hide who they are”.

A 75-point plan to improve the lives of LGBT people, costing £4.5m, has been produced in response to the survey. It includes plans to introduce a national LGBT health advisor, tackle discrimination, improve the response to hate crime and to improve diversity in education institutions.

The charity Stonewall added there were still “pockets of society” where the LGBT community was “far from safe”.

As part of the plan, it said it would “consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy”.

Equalities minister Penny Mordaunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme of the practice: “This is very extreme so-called therapy that is there to try and ‘cure’ someone from being gay – of course you can’t cure someone from being gay. In its most extreme form it can involve corrective rape.

“That’s very different from psychological services and counselling. It’s pretty unpleasant, some of the results we found, and it shows that there’s more action to do.”

She said the government is consulting on the best way to implement a ban, adding: “It’s absolutely right that that abhorrent practice has to go.”

Journalist Patrick Strudwick, who went undercover to expose so-called conversion therapists, said he has “seen, and felt, the damage it does”, writing: “Conversion therapy does need to be banned. It is abuse.”

He said it would be difficult to do so though, with the government recognising the scale of the issue.

Jayne Ozanne, a member of the Church of England’s general synod who went through the “therapy”, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: “I went through this because I believed – as many do – that being gay was sinful.”

She added: “The key problem is that it causes great harm. There are many, many young people suffering mental issues, self-harm, suicidal tendencies as a result of this, because they feel so guilty when it doesn’t work.”

Vicky Beeching sought therapy as a teenager, but the experience led to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and physical health symptoms.

“This is devastating,” she said of such practices. “People’s lives are literally in the balance.”

Dr Louise Theodosiou of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which “100% backs the ban”, told the programme: “There’s no evidence base to support this therapy. Your sexuality and your gender ID are inherent and there’s no evidence base and no therapeutic treatment to change what is simply part of someone’s nature.”

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