LGBTQ celebrities, including Rylan, Russel Tovey, Alan Cumming, Mae Martin, Munroe Bergdorf, and Dr Ranj, have written a joint letter to U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, demanding immediate action over conversion therapy laws in the U.K.
The pseudo-scientific practice tries to change, alter, suppress, or “cure” an LGBTQ person’s orientation or gender identity.
It’s a form of abuse condemned by the U.N., NHS and leading medical practitioners the world over. Indeed, Sunak’s predecessor Boris Johnson has called it “abhorrent” – despite also failing to bring a ban into legislation under his leadership.
It is now nearly five years after successive Conservative governments first pledged to ban the practice.
The letter also accuses the U.K. government of “giving the green light for abusers to continue unhindered.” It also paints a bigger picture of what it sees as the government’s failures towards LGBTQ people.
It says the government is failing LGBTQ people in the U.K. by not protecting them from rising hate crimes, the lack of access to specialist healthcare and growing cooling support for LGBTQ inclusive education laws introduced under Boris Johnson’s government.
Over the last few years, there has been an apparent flip-flopping on the matter with multiple U-turns, changes in plans and new promises.
The latest news reported by ITV was that just days after an announcement it should be expected in next week’s King’s Speech – which outlines the government’s legislative agenda each year – it could have been dropped again after intensive lobbying by increasingly influential MP Miriam Cates.
It’s all left campaigners and LGBTQ activists dizzy and unclear if any ban will ever become law:
“Following the conflicting ‘will they, won’t they’ reports, it’s obvious that long-term opponents of LGBTQ rights are trying to derail these vital protections,” Robbie de Santos, Director of External Affairs at Stonewall, says.
“The Prime Minister has a choice of pandering to extreme voices or demonstrating his leadership by protecting LGBTQ people and standing up to abusers. He has a week to decide whether his government will be on the right side of history and bring forward a full no-loopholes ban on conversion practices in the King’s speech next week.”
Actor Alan Cumming, who signed the letter, added that banning conversion therapy would also send young LGBTQ people a message that their government does not believe there’s anything wrong with them: “Until conversion therapy is banned, the UK government is sending a message that it is inherently homophobic.”
The full list of celebrities include: Alan Cumming, Charity Kase, Dan Howell, Daniel Lismore, David Atherton, Divina de Campo, Dr Ranj, Ella Vaday, Honey Kinny, Jade Thirlwall, Jonbers Blonde, Juno Dawson, Mae Martin, Marshall Arkley, Munroe Bergdorf, Pixie Polite, Rina Sawayama, Romy Ruby Rare, Russell Tovey, Rylan, Sister Sister and Sum Ting Wong.
What is so-called ‘conversion therapy’?
The practice takes a wide range of forms, including verbal, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.
However, many victims explain they do consent to therapy to help them come to terms with their identity. They then realise the sessions are instead trying to change them. It leaves many victims tricked into and then trapped in the practice.
This worries campaigners after a letter from the then U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the government was considering a ‘religious loophole’ to allow some forms of the practice to continue. The letter sent to the Evangelical Association aimed to calm fears that a bill would restrict ‘religious freedoms’.
It’s also been reported a number of times that a consent loophole might be included, which campaigners worry would be exploited by those who would want to continue the practice.
So-called conversion therapy is prevalent in the United Kingdom. A Government survey of over 100,000 LGBTQ people found at least 7% of the community are victims or have been offered the abusive practice.
Because of the high numbers thought to continue facing the practice, a dedicated helpline to help viticms was set up by anit-LGBTQ abuse charity Galop last year. In its first week alone, it was flooded with calls.
A growing number of countries have introduced a full or partial ban on the practice, including Brazil, Canada and Germany. Multiple U.S. states also ban the practice, while many E.U. countries are considering one following a European Parliament resolution.
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