LGBT Conversion Therapy Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Monday 8th March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
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Angela Eagle Portrait Dame Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab) [V]
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I was proud to be a Minister in the last Labour Government, which did so much to ensure that LGBT+ people were finally afforded equal rights in law. There is a difference, however, between ending bigotry and prejudice in law, and making the right to equal treatment and respect a reality for every LGBT+ person in our country. The petition aims to move us further towards that point.

That would seem like an obvious, non-contentious step when considering the mistaken beliefs that underly the existence of the degrading and dehumanising practice of conversion therapy: that sexual orientation can be changed; that LGBT+ people are a threat to society, evil or disordered; that LGBT+ people are ill, sick or can be cured; and that LGBT+ people can be persuaded or forced to become heterosexual by undergoing treatment or counselling. If that approach sounds almost medieval, that is because it is, yet every day, people in our country have their lives and mental wellbeing put at serious risk by being subjected to attempts, by people who have power over them, to change their sexual orientation.

The extent of the prevalence of conversion therapy in the UK is shocking, as we heard in the excellent opening contribution by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn). There is very strong evidence of the harm that conversion therapy inflicts: more than half of those who have gone through it report mental health issues, including breakdown, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Evidence also shows that it is being inflicted mainly, but not only, on vulnerable LGBT+ teenagers. That is horrific, but it is not surprising. Being told by faith leaders or your family that you are sinful, evil, and disordered for being yourself creates self-loathing and trauma that only the strongest can survive. Being told to pray harder to change and to question your innermost feelings and thoughts, and being taught to hate yourself—none of that should be legal.

Conversion therapy certainly causes untold damage and trauma for those who encounter it. Many survivors need specialist help because of the damage that that unethical and degrading process has caused. The Government must end the delay and bring the ban forward now. I welcome the petition, and I look forward to what I hope will be the Minister’s positive response and a timetable for legislation.