UK Government to Ban Conversion Therapy

The announcement follows a government survey on anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the country.

The British government plans to ban the practice of so-called conversion therapy, which attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identify of LGBTQ people.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced the plan as part of a £4.5 million ($5.9 million) initiative to combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination. It follow a government survey of LGBTQ people that revealed more than 2,000 of the 108,000 respondents had undergone conversion therapy, while another 5,400 had been offered it at some point in their lives.

lesbian couple uk
Caiaimage/Tom Merton

The survey also showed other areas of discrimination for the community, such as two in three saying they avoided holding hands with a significant other for fear of the reaction of others. Additionally, over half said they had tried to access mental health services but had to wait too long, and nearly a quarter said they had experienced negative reactions from coworkers for being openly LGBTQ.

Perhaps most alarmingly, 40% of those surveyed said they had experienced a hate crime, with more than 90% of the most serious of those offenses going unreported.

“We can be proud that the UK is a world leader in advancing LGBT rights, but the overwhelming response to our survey has shone a light on the many areas where we can improve the lives of LGBT people,” May said in a statement. “I was struck by just how many respondents said they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of a negative reaction.”

Theresa May
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“No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love “This LGBT action plan will set out concrete steps to deliver real and lasting change across society, from health and education to tackling discrimination and addressing the burning injustices that LGBT people face.”

The new initiative, the announcement of which coincides with Pride Week in London, will examine the scale of abuse online, combat bullying in schools, improving mental healthcare, and increase awareness of the services available for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

Conversion therapy has not been banned in the United States federally, but a total of 12 states have outlawed the practice on minors.

Journalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina, whose work has appeared in The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, and more.