Expert Group submits report to Scottish Government on ending conversion practices

National LGBTI equality charity the Equality Network has welcomed the Scottish Government’s publication today of the report of the Expert Advisory Group on conversion practices (sometimes misleadingly called “conversion therapy”).

Conversion practices cause severe mental and emotional harm. Recent research found that 7% of LGB people, 13% of trans people and 10% of asexual people in the UK had been offered or subjected to such practices (UK Government National LGBT Survey).

The expert advisory group recommends that all practices that aim to change, inhibit and/or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression should be banned in Scotland. The report acknowledges the diversity of methods and settings in which conversion practices occur and puts survivor autonomy first and foremost.

The group notes that conversion practices can violate human rights, and rejects the suggestion that a ban on conversion practices would be an unlawful restriction of freedom of religion or freedom of expression.

The report recommends a complete ban on such practices in Scotland, echoing the recommendations of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee earlier this year.

The expert advisory group was composed of people from the LGBTI+ sector, people with human rights, legal, psychological, and medical expertise, faith leaders, and survivors of conversion practices.

The report sets out a clear framework to guide the Scottish Government. The Equality Network hopes that the government will accept and move forward with these principles by legislating for both criminal measures and measures outside of criminal law.

Also published today is the Scottish Government’s response to the Group’s report, in which the government welcomes the report, commits to analyse the recommendations, consult publicly on proposals, and introduce legislation by the end of 2023.

Rev’d. Elder Maxwell Reay of the Metropolitan Community Church, and member of the expert advisory group, said:  

“Conversion ideology still harms LGBTQ+ people in Scotland today. As a faith leader in an LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming church, a survivor of conversion practice efforts myself, and as a member of this expert advisory group, I wholly welcome the principles and recommendations made within this report.  If taken on by the Scottish Government, this work will hopefully, finally, bring a long awaited end to conversion practices in every setting in Scotland.”

Richy Edwards, a survivor of conversion practices and member of the expert advisory group said:

“The first positive step made by Scottish Government was including those of us with lived experience of this abhorrent practice – which sadly still takes place in Scotland. I have fully appreciated their willingness to put survivors at the heart of this process. This has been tough to revisit. The difference that these recommendations, including support measures, will make to lives across the country cannot be overestimated. If adopted, Scotland will become a safer place for all LGBTQ+ people.”

Dr Rebecca Crowther, policy coordinator at Equality Network and member of the expert advisory group said:

“This work has been rigorous and tough, particularly for survivors. This report sets out a clear, well thought out, comprehensive, sensitive, and powerful set of principles that would go all the way in ending conversion practices in Scotland. There is a lot of work to be done and, now more than ever, an undeniable need to get on with the bill drafting – and finally put these awful practices to bed.”

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