Equality campaigners say they expect a full ban on controversial “conversion therapy” in Scotland, after MSPs concluded a change in the law must be “full and comprehensive”.
Conversion therapy is any practice which aims to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Over the past few months, survivors had been sharing their harrowing experiences in an attempt to get the practice completely outlawed.
On Tuesday, the Scottish Parliament’s equalities, human rights and civil justice committee agreed and said the current legislation does not go far enough.
MSPs said any change to the law must cover all attempts to change someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation, and must explicitly say informed consent cannot be used as a defence for carrying out conversion therapy on someone.
The UK Government is also considering a ban on conversion therapy.
However, the Holyrood report says Scotland should not wait.
However as the majority of religious organisations support a ban on conversion therapy, the committee also agrees any legislation must not restrict ordinary religious teachings or the right of people to take part in prayer or pastoral care which discusses, explores or helps them to come to terms with their identity.
‘People cannot consent to torture’
Blair Anderson, from the campaign group End Conversion Therapy Scotland, is a gay man who experienced conversion practices as a child.
He says conversion practices do not work and are a form of torture.
“Conversion therapy is not a positive, therapeutic or beneficial treatment,” he said.
“It is often seen as a form of torture.
“The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims said that conversion ‘therapy’ violates the global ban on torture.
“People cannot consent to torture.
“It is not possible to change your sexuality or your gender identity.
“We consider conversion practices to be a form of torture and it does not work.”
Sophie Duncan, from End Conversion Therapy Scotland, added: “We are grateful to the committee for setting out so clearly the case for a comprehensive and swift ban on the torture of LGBT+ people in Scotland.
“We have been clear from the outset of our campaign – any conversion practices ban must be fully comprehensive, protecting all of Scotland’s queer people from conversion practices, in all its forms.
“We are glad that the committee has resisted efforts from those who practice, or who support these practices, to muddy the waters of this debate.
“It is positive to see the committee note their concern regarding how long it has taken to reach this point – and we fully back their calls for the Scottish Government to work with Holyrood to ensure legislation is brought forward as soon as possible.
“We look forward to seeing the day when all LGBT+ people are allowed to be who they are, free from hate or persecution, and we hope that day is soon.”
‘Swift action’ is needed
Members of Holyrood’s equalities, human rights and civil justice committee also welcomed progress.
Karen Adam, MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, said: “The launch of this report is a monumental moment for the LGBT+ community in Scotland.
“Conversion practices have done untold harm to so many LGBT+ people and we owe it to each and every person who has ever endured this form of torture, to implement a full and comprehensive ban as soon as possible.
“A very small number of countries in the world have recognised how damaging conversion practices are on the safety and wellbeing of LGBT+ people. However, Scotland has the opportunity to lead the world in displaying how this can and should be done.
“Taking evidence in preparation of this report clearly showed that an absolute ban on conversion practices is the only satisfactory outcome.”
Maggie Chapman, an MSP for the North East region, added: “Banning these disgusting and violent practices is long overdue, so I am delighted that all MSPs on the committee have called for swift action.”