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‘Conversion therapy’ (CT) doesn’t have a settled definition but refers broadly to a range of practices that seek to change, ‘cure’ or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. CT practices range from psychological treatments and spiritual counselling, which are legal in the UK, to sexual violence and electric shock therapy, which are illegal in the UK. 

The 2021 Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s plans for legislation to ban CT. In October 2021, the Government launched a consultation on its proposals to ban CT in England and Wales. The proposals apply to attempts to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or “to change another from being transgender or to being transgender”.  

Key points 

  • There is limited research on the prevalence and nature of conversion therapy (CT). It is difficult to robustly assess the effect of CT because study designs such as Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) cannot be used. 
  • The best available scientific research suggests that there is evidence of serious harm associated with CT and very little evidence that CT can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  • Key challenges for policymakers include addressing the often conflicting interests and concerns of stakeholders about how to define CT in law and balance human rights.  
  • A key debate raised by the Government’s proposals is whether to allow adults to give informed consent for non-physical CT practices, or whether a complete ban is necessary to protect people. 

Acknowledgements

POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer-reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

Members of the POST Board*

Neil Baker, British Psychological Society

Dr Michael Biggs, University of Oxford  

Simon Calvert and James Kennedy, Christian Institute*

Equalities and Human Rights Commission

Professor Andrew Fisher, Nottingham University*

Dr Craig French, Nottingham University*

Government Equalities Office*

Dr Helen Hall, Nottingham Trent University*

International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC)*

Ali Jaffery, Strong Support*

Dr Adam Jowett, University of Coventry*

LGB Alliance*

Malcolm McLean, University of Cambridge*

Dr Igi/Lyndsey Moon, Chair of the Memorandum of Understanding*

Dr Carys Moseley, Christian Concern

Professor Javier Garcia Oliva, University of Manchester*

Jayne Ozanne, Ozanne Foundation*

Dr Craig Purshouse, University of Liverpool*

Stonewall*

Dr Ilias Trispiotis, University of Leeds*

Danny Webster, Evangelical Christian Alliance UK

* denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.


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