Take immediate action to ban conversion therapy in Scotland, say MSPs

Holyrood’s Equalities Committee said there was no need to wait for Westminster.

Take immediate action to ban conversion therapy in Scotland, say MSPs iStock

Quick action needs to be taken to ban conversion therapy in Scotland, a Holyrood committee has said.

The practice, which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, has been described as traumatic by some of those who have experienced it.

The Scottish and UK Governments have both committed to bringing in a ban on conversion therapy but MSPs on the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee said ministers in Holyrood should not wait to hear what Westminster proposes before pursuing their own course.

There had been concerns from faith groups that any legislation brought forward would see religious practices fall foul of the new laws, but this notion has been rejected by the committee.

The report also concluded: “There is no conflict in protecting religious freedom and preventing harm by putting a ban in place.”

The MSPs noted that a majority of religious organisations supported a ban.

“We’ve said from the start that we don’t believe there is a conflict between religious beliefs and a ban on conversion therapy,” said Blair Anderson from End Conversion Therapy Scotland.

“One does not cancel the other out and most faith groups agree and support a ban.

“We hope this report reassures faith groups that they can continue with their beliefs while people are protected from conversion therapy.”

The group of MSPs have held weeks of evidence sessions speaking to campaign groups, religious organisations as well as survivors of conversion therapy.

The work was brought forward after a petition was handed to the Scottish Parliament in August 2020 calling on a ban on the practice with more than 5500 signatures.

“It will be complex and it’s important we do it correctly,” said Joe FitzPatrick, conveyor of the committee.

“It’s not just about banning the practice. There will need to be support in place for survivors. We were struck by the trauma people were going through when talking about the harm they had experienced.”

The report says laws should be brought in “promptly”, but FitzPatrick accepts changes will not be imminent due to the complexity of the task.

The Scottish Government has set up and Expert Advisory Group on new legislation and say they are committed to introducing new laws by the end of 2023.

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