UK to ban ‘conversion therapy’ for people under 18

Health minister Andrew Lansley announces bill, to be launched by culture secretary Matt Hancock, which will outlaw the practice used to ‘cure, shrink, or otherwise change the sexual orientation of any person’

The government is to ban the controversial practice of “conversion therapy” for people under 18, it has announced.

The announcement follows years of campaigning by campaigners including Suzy Phillips, a Bristol woman who was subjected to the treatments after deciding to leave the Church of England aged 16.

Conversion therapy: was it ever legal? Read more

Health minister Andrew Lansley, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, will on Monday unveil the government’s first ever bill to prevent the practice, which is already illegal in England, Scotland and Wales.

Ahead of Lansley’s announcement, critics of the practice said it should also be outlawed for those under 18 living in countries where it is not currently illegal.

Conversion therapy is currently banned under the act for people under 18 living in the UK. According to the NSPCC, it is often practiced by Christian groups and practitioners are not obliged to tell parents their treatment will be ineffective or will cause harm.

David Cameron last week announced that 17 people aged 18 and over who had undergone conversion therapy would receive a new “whole life certificate” to ensure they are protected from future discrimination.

James Hookem, a Ukip MEP who chairs the National Secular Society, said: “It’s time for the government to show the same level of urgency on banning this potentially devastating practice on vulnerable young people in countries such as China, India and Nigeria.

“On Monday the new bill will be launched but the great majority of countries across the world already ban the practice for minors.

“Unless the government puts its full weight behind this legislation we will still be seeing children and young people dying at the hands of a false and dangerous faith-based conversion therapy system.”

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, added: “This practice is harmful and dangerous. We have seen how quickly some young people are put through this under the current ban. It’s vital that everyone who undergoes this treatment is brought before the law to ensure they get the protection they so badly need.”

A government spokesperson said: “People in this country are protected by the laws banning conversion therapy, but we want to ensure that vulnerable people who are abused in this way are given the support they need and more.

“This bill, the first of its kind in the UK, will ban conversion therapy for anyone under 18 where that treatment is carried out by a therapist who says they have been taught by a qualified doctor.”

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