Consultation on controversial plans to ban ‘conversion therapy’ draws to a close

The Scottish Government’s proposals have sparked concerns over the impact on family life
The Scottish Government has been consulting on plans to ban 'conversion therapy'The Scottish Government has been consulting on plans to ban 'conversion therapy'
The Scottish Government has been consulting on plans to ban 'conversion therapy'

A public consultation on controversial plans to ban “conversion therapy” in Scotland has drawn to a close.

The Scottish Government wants to criminalise the practice, which sees people attempt to change or suppress the gender identity or sexual orientation of another.

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However, the proposals have sparked concerns over the impact on family life, with the Christian Institute warning it is “ready to go to court” over the issue.

Lawyers have also warned the definition of conversion practices set out in the consultation document is not “legally coherent”.

In a briefing for journalists in January, a Scottish Government official said it would “reflect” on concerns parents could face prosecution if, for example, they do not let their child dress as the opposite gender or take puberty blockers.

Green MSP Maggie Chapman said banning conversion therapy would be a “landmark” move for equality. She said: “There is nothing therapeutic about conversion practices. They are cruel and dangerous and have no place in modern Scotland. Banning them would be a landmark for progress for equality.

“Conversion practices are intended to shame people into changing who they are. Nobody should be told that they are not good enough because of their sexuality or their gender identity.

“Too many people have suffered. I hope that all MSPs will take the time to learn from and listen to the experience of survivors, and that they will stand with them.”

But Alex Salmond’s Alba Party said the plans were “ill-defined, contradictory, completely unworkable and unnecessary given existing legislation”.

The party’s Neale Hanvey said: “While we support the aim of protecting individuals from harmful practices, we have concerns about the proposed measures outlined by the Scottish Government. We believe that they could excessively intrude on private and family life, as well as impede freedom of expression and religion.”

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Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, previously told The Scotsman the plans must not criminalise parents.

He said he backed a ban "in principle", but warned: "We can't make the mistakes we made in the GRR [Gender Recognition Reform] Bill, and we can't criminalise parents."

He said: "We can't be in a situation where we are criminalising parents. Parents have to, rightly and legitimately, have a knowledge of impacts on their children and be allowed to do their job as parents, and not have that job taken away from them by the state.

"Now, that's not to say there aren't circumstances where the state of course has to step in – social care being one prime example of that, when in horrific circumstances social work does have to step in and take on the role of parent in some cases.

"But I think on this, if it looked like there was breaching into a parent's rights, I think that would be a very negative place for us to be."

The consultation said proposed new criminal offences would address "the most serious and harmful forms of conversion practices”, with jail sentences of up to seven years for the worst offenders.



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