SCOTTISH LGBT campaigners have welcomed a “game-changer” report which backs a ban on conversion practices and ruled out any religious loopholes.
The Scottish Government’s expert advisory group published their findings on conversion practices, sometimes referred to as “therapy”, on Tuesday October 4.
Campaigners say that the practices cause a severe impact on mental health and that 7% of LGB people, 13% of trans people and 10% of asexual people had been subjected to or offered such practices in the UK.
The recommendations state that all practices which 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.
It also notes that the practices can infringe on a person’s human rights and rejects the argument that a ban would impact on freedom of religion or freedom of expression.
The report echoes the findings of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee earlier this year.
On the specific issue of a religious exemption, the report said: "The Group does not consider that a ban on conversion practices leads to an unlawful restriction of freedom of religion or freedom of expression. Numerous religious groups have declared their support for the prohibition of conversion practices."
End Conversion Therapy Scotland, campaigners who have spearheaded the bid for a conversion practices ban, said: “This report recognises the need for a comprehensive ban of all Conversion Practices on the basis of both sexuality and gender identity, and wherever it may occur.
“This report is a game-changer for LGBTQ+ rights in Scotland.
“We’re glad that the group has recommended a full and comprehensive ban which protects all LGBTQ+ people from conversion therapy - on the basis of both sexuality and gender identity, and wherever it may occur.
“People cannot truly consent to attempts to change unchangeable aspects of who they are, this is recognised in the report.
“The criminalisation of conversion therapy cannot come soon enough,” they added.
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 advisory group member, said: “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.”
Out for Independence, the SNP’s LGBT affiliate, also welcomed the report. They said: “It is thorough and unequivocal in its calls for an inclusive definition of conversion practices, without exemptions or loopholes.
“It is heartening to see that they are taking seriously, the harm that conversion therapy does to its victims, and important they have also called for support for survivors, education and outreach, and the creation of reporting systems that respect the privacy of survivors.
“The report's focus on the human rights of LGBTQ+ people and support for survivors shows how politics can be done differently.”