LGBT Conversion Therapy Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Monday 8th March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
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Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
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It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Gray. I thank the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) for introducing the debate, and all Members who have spoken so far for their powerful contributions.

The first thing to say is that conversion therapy is happening. It is happening in this country, and that should be a shame to us. We must act on it. It has no scientific basis. It is torture. It is a denial of basic human rights. It leads to violence. It can, in some cases, as we have heard, lead horrifically to corrective rape. It is abuse and, in tragic circumstances, it can lead to death. I thank the many constituents in Cardiff South and Penarth for writing to me and reaching out, and the friends who over many years have spoken to me of their own harrowing direct experiences.

I pay tribute to the group of organisations, the memorandum of understanding group and all the other individuals and organisations, some of whom I have met with this week, for all the work that they have been doing. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), who has been raising this issue for many years. In fact, he introduced Bills in this place to ban conversion therapy in 2013 and 2018. It is a shame that they were not taken up by the Government before now. This is not a party political issue; it is a human rights issues, as we have seen from the breadth and strength of feeling across the House.

I will speak predominantly about the religious context, because that is where I come from. I am gay. I am a Christian. God created me, God loves me, and I love God, but I have had some pretty unpleasant experiences in repressive environments when I was not able to be clear about my sexuality. I was very lucky that I saw a therapist once, and when I said, “I don’t want to have a sham heterosexual marriage,” she just said, “You don’t have to, Stephen. You don’t have to.” What if there were more therapists like that, instead of some of the horrors that we have been hearing about today?

Anybody who has watched such films as “Boy Erased”, or heard the powerful testimony from such groups as the Ozanne Foundation will know the reality that many people can go through in religious experiences. The 2018 faith and sexuality survey showed that, of the 468 people who had been through conversion therapy, 91 admitted attempting suicide and 193 had suicidal thoughts. Over 50% were advised to go through it by a religious leader.

The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns) raised a point about consent. I do not think that someone can give consent to this, and I was alarmed to see, I am sorry to say, in the Secretary of State’s letter attached to the debate, what I fear could be a get-out clause. It talked about “seeking spiritual support”, but we need to be aware of what that can be used to cover up. I point to article 10 of the Evangelical Alliance’s biblical and pastoral responses to homosexuality, which says:

“We encourage evangelical congregations to welcome…lesbians and gay men. However, they should do so in the expectation that they, like all of us who are living outside God’s purposes, will…see the need to be transformed”.

It also states that there is a need for

“pastoral care during this process and after a person renounces same-sex sexual relations.”

That could be used as a cover for some very dangerous practices.

I stand by all those who have stood by the trans and non-binary community. They must absolutely be included in this, and we must also protect the legitimate services that are there to support them through transition and the challenges that they face. We have to ban this, and I hope that the Minister will be able to explain what the definition is of “seeking spiritual support”, how trans and non-binary people will be protected, and when we will get on with this.