Top LGBT+ figures have sent a scathing letter to secretary of state for equalities Kemi Badenoch, slamming her “extremely troubling” speech on banning conversion therapy.
On Monday (8 March) Kemi Badenoch gave a speech at a parliament debate on conversion therapy, more than two and half years since the Tories pledged in 2018 to “eradicate” the abhorrent practice as part of their LGBT+ Action Plan.
She was widely criticised for her “vague” comments, giving no timeline, mentioning no specifics relating to potential legislation and repeatedly refusing to use the word “ban”.
Signatories of the letter include Susie Green, CEO of trans kids charity Mermaids, longtime LGBT+ rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Rob Cookson, deputy chief executive of the LGBT Foundation, and Robbie De Santos, director of communications and external affairs at Stonewall.
Jayne Ozanne, who resigned on Wednesday (10 March) from the government’s LGBT+ Advisory Panel, claiming there is a “hostile environment for LGBT+ people among this administration”, also signed the letter.
The group wrote: “We write as a broad coalition of LGBTQIA+ organisations, including those who work with survivors of conversion therapy, and legal experts to express our deep concern regarding your response in the Ban Conversion Therapy Petitions Debate on 8 March 2021.
“Despite an excellent debate, involving MPs from across the United Kingdom showing their support for a ban, your response failed to engage with any of their concerns regarding the need for urgent action and notably did not use the word ‘ban’ once.
“Your claim that there are already legal protections in place to protect LGBT+ people from harm fails to understand the power dynamics at work in these types of situations, and the inability of victims to have recourse to justice.
“What is more, we were extremely troubled by your omission of any mention of protection for trans people, given the number of strong speeches stressing that they are at the most likely to be at risk.
“While we are glad to hear that your department is ‘working at pace’, we fail to understand why – after nearly 1,000 days – coming forward with meaningful legislation is taking so much time.
“There is now a wide body of international learning on this matter, and indeed good models of legislation that build on the insights from lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex, queer and asexual survivors.”
Kemi Badenoch claimed to have ‘consulted widely’, but has not consulted with any of the letter’s signatories
The LGBT+ leaders and organisations said they were glad to hear that Kemi Badenoch was “consulting widely”, but reported that none of them had been contacted for consultation, adding: “So we question, with whom you are consulting?”
They continued: “Your response yesterday appeared to imply that you have been meeting with perpetrators of conversion therapy, and those who want the practice to continue.
“This is very worrying and gives the impression that the government is more interested in appeasing the extreme fringes of religious people, despite the calls for a ban from senior religious leaders from across a wide range of faiths.
“We strongly believe the government should instead be focused on protecting vulnerable members of our communities.
“We ask that you make good the prime minister’s promise of bringing forward a full and meaningful ban, and that you release the research conducted in April 2019 which we understand was completed last year.
“Finally, we ask that you urgently meet with us to hear first-hand testimonies from survivors and understand more fully the need for protections enshrined in legislation for all forms of conversion therapy.”