The Welsh Government has announced it will look into bringing in a ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ “unilaterally”, citing its ambition to become “the friendliest LGBTQ+ Nation in Europe”.
There are as yet no details of what a ban would include, but a statement from Hannah Blythyn, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, said the Government is committed to ensuring “no one is left out”, indicating any ban would include those struggling with gender confusion.
It comes just weeks after the Westminster Government signalled its intention to ditch a ban on conversion therapy altogether before performing a second U-turn just hours later, announcing it would press ahead with a legislative approach, although it would no longer apply to those experiencing gender dysphoria.
In her announcement, Blythyn said that the Government is “seeking legal advice to determine all the levers we have in Wales to end the practice of conversion therapy unilaterally” and would establish a “dedicated campaign” to “educate” people in Wales.
The powers to bring forward a ban are not devolved to Wales, but the Welsh Government must now be very clear that it will respect religious freedom Spokesman, Let Us Pray
She added that an expert group would be set up in order to understand the impact of conversion therapy on those who claim to have experienced such practices, with representatives from “faith communities; the health and social care sector; and children and young people’s representatives”.
The Deputy Minister said LGBT people would also be asked to advise on key elements of a ban as it is developed.
When a similar ‘expert advisory group’ was set up in Scotland by the SNP-Green alliance, it did not include anyone to represent concerns over the effects a broad ban would have on the ordinary work of churches.
‘Respect religious freedom’
A spokesman for Let Us Pray, which is campaigning to protect everyday church activity from criminalisation, said Welsh politicians were ignoring the recognition at Westminster that a broad ban on conversion therapy is “un-evidenced and in many ways unworkable”.
He added: “The same activists who opposed the U-turn in Westminster, and are supporting Wales in its own plans, want to see the ordinary work of churches outlawed. In recent days they have reiterated that a ban must cover even ‘private prayer’. Now the Welsh Government plans to put them on an ‘expert group’ to advise on a ban.
“The powers to bring forward a ban are not devolved to Wales, but the Welsh Government must now be very clear that it will respect religious freedom – including prayer, preaching, pastoral care and Christian parenting – in its new campaign.”