More than 80 campaigners and politicians have called on Westminster not to rush through its proposed conversion therapy ban over fears the legislation will be hijacked by trans activists.
The Government recently signalled it intended to scrap its proposed ban, but U-turned only a few hours later following backlash from LGBT activists. It agreed to continue with a ‘legislative approach’, but said this would not apply to those experiencing gender confusion.
In a letter to The Sunday Times, 83 signatories said there was a risk that “Hasty attempts to decouple gender identity from the bill will inevitably provoke hurriedly drafted amendments to put it straight back”, but that this should be resisted.
‘Physical and emotional scars’
Among those to have signed the letter were former Education Secretary Baroness Morris, Rosie Duffield MP, Stonewall co-founder-turned-critic Simon Fanshawe, Maya Forstater, founder of campaign group Sex Matters, former Tavistock governor Dr David Bell, and psychiatric nurses Marcus and Susan Evans, who both previously worked at the NHS’s Gender Identity Development Service.
The signatories pointed out that a ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is unnecessary, as “abusive and harmful practices are already illegal” and criticised the Government for its “ambiguous language and weak definitions” in its proposals.
They said similar legislation in other countries had left “vulnerable youngsters on a one-way path to irreversible medical interventions”, adding: “We cannot make the same mistake in the UK. Increasing numbers of detransitioners — with their physical and emotional scars — show that children change their minds”.
The signatories urged the Government to pause the ban until Dr Hilary Cass has published the final findings of her independent review into NHS England’s gender identity services for children.
In her interim report, published in February, Dr Cass said the service was not fit for purpose, and that a “fundamentally different service model is needed”.
The letter said that because amendments would “inevitably” be added to any conversion therapy Bill, requiring it to cover those experiencing gender confusion, an evidence base is needed, and that the Government “should pause for Cass’s final findings and proceed only when it is clear what is actually required”.
Earlier this month, former Director of Legislative Affairs at 10 Downing Street Nikki Da Costa warned the proposed ban “could cause, rather than prevent harm to children” and called for sufficient time for serious concerns to be addressed.
She questioned if parents would be “hauled through the courts” under the proposed ban if they failed to affirm their child’s gender confusion or encouraged a period of reflection. She said: “How would the line be drawn in law between what was and was not acceptable?”
Da Costa concluded: “When the stakes are as high as they are in this case, involving vulnerable children, the need for circumspection has never been greater.”