The Government has done yet another U-turn on banning conversion therapy, and will unveil plans today to bring in a full spectrum ban. That will include any attempt to persuade trans teens from taking puberty blockers or undergoing irreversible medical procedures. The Telegraph has more on the likely backlash Rishi Sunak will face from free speech campaigners and Conservative MPs.
Rishi Sunak faces a “big backlash” if he presses ahead with a ban on trans conversion therapy which campaigners and Tory MPs say could criminalise parents, teachers and doctors.
The Government has already committed to ban therapists from pressurising gay people to be straight – a move which is entirely uncontroversial.
But over the weekend, Whitehall sources indicated that the Prime Minister wants to extend the law in order to ban the use of conversion therapy around gender transitions – where an attempt is made to persuade children who want to change their gender that they should stay as they are.
Boris Johnson rejected extending the law to cover gender identity in this way, and – on Monday night – critics said that if Mr Sunak presses ahead, it could be used to criminalise those who question children who want to change gender.
Tim Loughton, the former children’s minister, said he was concerned doctors, teachers and parents could fall foul of any new law unless it were very carefully worded.
“It certainly needs to include some dispensation when discussing transition treatment with minors or there will be a big backlash,” he said.
Maya Forstater, the co-founder of Sex Matters, said banning conversion therapy could see teachers and parents in the dock if they question a child’s desire to change gender.
The group says it means teachers could find themselves in court if they tell children they cannot use opposite-sex toilets or prevent a boy from competing in girls’ sports.
And it says parents could fall foul of the law for refusing to use the correct pronoun or for taking children abroad to avoid people pressuring them into transitioning.
Ms Forstater said: “Proponents of the plan to outlaw conversion therapy in the UK have never been able to come up with evidence that there is a contemporary practice that can and should be banned.
“Already therapists who help people work through gender issues and not become fixed on the idea that they need to alter their body to be their true self are being accused of practising ‘conversion’.
“Any proposed legislation should be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny to make sure that it does not risk criminalising thoughtful therapists, and parents and teachers who don’t believe children can be ‘born in the wrong body’, or people practising their religion.”
Damian Green, the former deputy prime minister to Theresa May, urged Mr. Sunak to be careful.
“The key is the definition of what should be outlawed,” he said. “Clearly any coercive or bullying interventions are completely unacceptable, but the definition should not be so wide that it excludes proper conversations with clinicians.
“This is an especially sensitive area when it involves children.”
In an article for the Telegraph, Kathleen Stock, a British philosopher who had to leave her university position after being targeted by trans activists, said: “Under the proposed legislation, doctors, counsellors and therapists could be forced to simply affirm any child who claimed to be trans, or face potential prosecution for attempting to change the child’s identity.”
Stop Press: Kemi Badenoch, who in her capacity as Minister for Women and Equalities will be tasked with introducing the Bill, is planning to write a letter setting our her reservations about a blanket ban on conversion therapy. According to the Telegraph, “She will warn that legitimate conversations between parents and trans children must not be outlawed and that freedom of religion must be protected.”