Persuading children to change gender identity will become illegal in wake of legal battle over NHS clinic giving puberty-blockers to under 16s
Adults who try to persuade children to change sexes will be breaking the law under new legislation set to come in.
Liz Truss, the equalities minister, has announced a six-week consultation on how to legislate against the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual preferences through counselling.
It will also further outlaw gay conversion therapy, which is already covered under other offences.
Some have interpreted that the new law could cause difficulties for transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse advocacy groups.
But they have welcomed the new proposals and say they would welcome Miss Truss taking the initiative on it.
Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids said: ‘Conversion therapy affects the whole LGBTQIA+ community, with evidence suggesting that transgender people are more likely to be impacted by this deeply concerning practice.
‘It’s vital that the Government brings in a comprehensive legal ban, which protects the whole of the LGBTQIA+ community, children and adults alike.’
Lui Asquith, Director of Legal and Policy at Mermaids said: ‘The Government has made it clear they intend to protect all LGB and T individuals from conversion therapies – this is welcome and right.’
Liz Truss said the announcement sets out plans on how the Government will ‘ban an archaic practice’
Ministers said safeguarding under-18s is a priority and pledged that future laws will place a strong emphasis on preventing children undergoing any practices considered to be conversion therapies.
Miss Truss said: ‘There should be no place for the abhorrent practice of coercive conversion therapy in our society.
‘Today we are publishing detailed proposals that will stop appalling conversion therapies and make sure LGBT people can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse.
‘I want everyone to be able to love who they want and be themselves.
‘Today’s announcement sets out how we will ban an archaic practice that has no place in modern life.’
But critics said the plans should have gone further and outlawed all conversion therapy.
Ministers will legislate to ensure that, when existing violent offences are motivated by conversion therapy, this is considered as a potential aggravating factor when the perpetrator is sentenced.
They also propose to create a new offence for talking therapies that seek to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, to be punishable by imprisonment of up to five years.
The six-week public consultation on on how to legislate against the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual preferences through counselling will end on December 10
This would apply to under-18s under any circumstance and to adults who have not freely consented and been fully informed about the potential impacts.
The GEO said consent requirements would be ‘robust and stringent’.
It acknowledged some believe that an adult cannot consent even when fully aware of the potential for being harmed, but said it is the Government’s view that ‘the freedom for an adult to enter such an arrangement should be protected’.
The Government has launched a six-week public consultation which will close on December 10, after which it will prepare and introduce legislation by spring 2022.
It said any future laws would place a particularly strong emphasis on protecting children, given their inherent vulnerability.
Keira Bell, 24, took legal action against the Tavistock and Portman Trust, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children, arguing that children cannot properly consent to taking hormone drugs.
The legal challenge was also brought by Mrs A, the mother of a 15-year-old autistic girl who is currently on the waiting list for treatment.
In December last year, the High Court had said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that a child under 13 would be able to consent to the treatment, and that it was ‘doubtful’ that a child of 14 o 15 would understand the consequences.
Though Ms Bell declared the ruling a victory for ‘common sense’, campaigners from Stonewall and Mermaids called the judgment an ‘absolutely devastating blow for trans young people across the country’.
In a surprise judgment last month, appeal judges found doctors should use their clinical judgment rather than needing a court’s approval to provide treatment – overruling the High Court’s assessment on the issue.
Writing on CrowdJustice earlier this month, Ms Bell announced that she is now seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
She said she was ‘obviously disappointed with the ruling of the Court and especially that it did not grapple with the significant risk of harm that children are exposed to by being given powerful experimental drugs’