Government proposals to ban conversion therapy in certain scenarios will be seen as a “ban in name only” by survivors, according to a former Government LGBT adviser.
Jayne Ozanne, who describes herself as a gay evangelical Christian, was one of several members to step down from the LGBT advisory panel in March citing concerns about a “hostile environment” being created for LGBT people.
She said the long-awaited proposals, announced on Friday in a six-week public consultation, will “sadly” allow abuse to continue.
Part of the plans include creating a new offence for talking therapies that seek to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, when committed against under-18s in all circumstances, and adults who have not given fully informed consent.
The Government said consent requirements would be “robust and stringent”, and that while some believe an adult cannot consent even when fully aware of potential harms, it believes “the freedom for an adult to enter such an arrangement should be protected”.
A six-week consultation on Government proposals to ban conversion therapy launched today.
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— Government Equalities Office (@GEOgovuk) October 29, 2021
It added that simply expressing the teachings of a religion will not constitute conversion therapy, and it cannot be “reasonably understood” to include casual conversations or private prayer.
Ms Ozanne said there is a lot to welcome in the plans, but is “deeply concerned” that they propose allowing adults to consent to “these harmful and degrading practices”.
She told the PA news agency: “What’s of grave concern is the huge loophole in allowing consent, informed consent, for adults, and sadly what appears to be a bias towards the clinical medical profession.
“There is hardly any mention of conversion therapy in religious settings, which is where we know – and the Government’s own research shows – that the vast majority of cases in the UK occur.
“Sadly, informed consent is a complete misnomer in a religious setting, because you believe that what you’re doing is the right thing given everyone around you believes that you’re doing the right thing, and so you end up putting yourself in harm’s way.”
Ms Ozanne said the publishing the consultation is a “major step”, but added: “I don’t want something that’s going to allow abuse to continue, and sadly these proposals will.”
She went on: “The Government may think they are banning, but those of us who’ve come through it know that it’s a ban in name only.”