LGBT+ conversion practices: Scottish Government must not delay Bill to ban these harmful measures – Vic Valentine

Governments can’t do everything all at once but the clock is ticking on time to pass a Bill banning LGBT+ conversion practices in Scotland before the next election

Research shows that when there are ongoing political debates about extending rights to marginalised groups, this worsens the mental health of people within those communities. It is important that governments not only make the right choices to improve people’s lives, but also think about how the process of getting from where we are to where we need to be impacts on those very people, especially when it is in an area relating to deeply traumatic experiences.

Last week, the Scottish Government announced their Programme for Government, the things they will do in the coming year. There was much to welcome. For lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, some of the things announced that could make a big difference to our lives were the Bill to incorporate international human rights treaties into Scots law, continued work to deliver LGBT+ inclusive education, a Bill to criminalise and root out misogyny, and an ongoing commitment to transform gender identity health services.

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A noticeable omission was the anticipated Bill to end conversion practices. I have written about conversion practices before, but to briefly recap: The term covers a range of actions that try to stop lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, and other members of the LGBT+ community, from being, or expressing, who we are. These actions take place because the person doing them believes there is something wrong with LGBT+ people, and that we can be ‘fixed’.’Conversion practices are harmful, ineffective, and wrong.

This Bill has been on Scotland's political agenda for some time. A petition to end conversion practices was submitted to the Scottish Parliament in 2020, and all five main political parties committed to doing so in their 2021 manifestoes. That same year, the Bute House Agreement committed to introducing a Bill by the end of 2023, and the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee published a report strongly supporting a Bill, alongside civil measures, to be brought as soon as possible. In 2022, the Scottish Government set up an expert advisory group which considered how to most effectively end conversion practices, publishing recommendations last year.

Survivors of conversion practices have been involved in all these considerations, as they should be. This has required them to share details of difficult and distressing parts of their histories, because they believe that doing so will help to make sure that the same thing won’t happen to others. Revisiting those experiences is deeply painful and traumatic. Repeated requests for further discussion, and continued delays in seeing any policy change, make that even worse.

Delays to the Bill also mean the wider actions required to stop these harmful practices, and the full range of support that those who have been or are at risk of being subjected to conversion practices need, are frustrated.

Of course, governments can’t do everything all at once, and the Scottish Government has funded a helpline for survivors of conversion practices, and will consult on a draft Bill this year. But looking forward, the clock is ticking on time to pass the legislation before the next election – to not just ban conversion practices in law, but to do what is needed to end these abhorrent practices entirely.

Need support? You can call LGBT+ Helpline Scotland: 0800 464 700.

Vic Valentine is manager of Scottish Trans



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