What is conversion therapy as Boris Johnson faces backlash over plan to drop ban

Conversion therapy is in the headlines after a leak revealed Boris Johnson’s plan to backtrack from the ban in England and Wales.

ITV published the contents of an official briefing yesterday which stated that the PM had decided not to move forward with his pledge to outlaw the practice.

The document expected “noisy backlash from LGBT groups and some parliamentarians when we announce we do not intend to proceed.”

Now the UK Government says the ban will go ahead, but exclude transgender people.

Conversion therapy is not banned in Scotland despite efforts by campaigners and activists.

But what is the practice, how many people have experienced it, and what is its future in the UK?

What is so-called conversion therapy?

Conversion therapy attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation

Conversion therapy is the use of methods, such as aversive stimulation or religious counselling, to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation.

It is also used in an attempt to persuade trans people to alter their gender identity to correspond with the sex they had at birth.

The practice has been described by NHS England as “unethical and potentially harmful”.

It has been condemned by mental wellbeing charity Mind as something which has “a terrible impact on a person’s mental health”.

Will it be banned in the UK?

The Government pledged to end conversion therapy in 2018, under Theresa May.

But in March 2021, three advisers quit the Government’s LGBT advisory panel over worries it was acting too slowly on the ban.

One of the advisers, Jayne Ozanne, accused ministers of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT people.

On Thursday evening, a leaked Downing Street briefing paper seen by ITV News showed that Mr Johnson had dropped plans for the ban.

But just hours later, following outrage from LGBT campaigners and health charities, Number 10 U-turned again, with a senior Government source quoted as saying the ban would feature in the next Queen’s Speech.

However, it was reported that the legislation would cover “only gay conversion therapy, not trans”.

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How many people in the UK have experienced conversion therapy?

The exact number is not known, but a National LGBT Survey done by the Government in 2017 suggested that five percent of LGBT people have been offered conversion, and two percent have undergone the therapy.

These figures were higher among trans people, with eight percent saying they had been offered the therapy, and four percent reporting having undergone it.

Where has conversion therapy been banned so far?

In 1999, Brazil became the first country to ban conversion therapy relating to sexual orientation, according to Stonewall.

Many countries have followed suit by imposing a full or partial ban since, including Samoa, Canada, Germany, Mexico and parts of Australia, along with dozens of US states, with the exception of religious organisations.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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