A large crowd at an LGBT+ pride rally somewhere in the UK, with flags waving above the throng of people.

We submit our views to conversion practices consultation

Joe Higgins, Policy and Campaigns Officer

April 2, 2024

This week we submitted our views to a Scottish government consultation on proposals to end conversion practices in Scotland. If passed, a new law could outlaw conversion practices of all kinds, and also create better support systems for victims. Our Policy and Campaigns Officer Joe Higgins explains why this is so important.

Our organisation has a long history of promoting and defending the rights of LGBT+ people. We will always support measures that tackle social stigma and discrimination against the queer community. So we welcomed the opportunity to share our views on plans to end conversion practices in Scotland through a Scottish government consultation. The consultation aimed to determine the scope of any new law and civil measures to end conversion practices.

Conversion practices take many guises, from talking therapies, “healing prayers” and so-called treatments to controlling someone’s appearance and interactions.

If a law against conversion practices is implemented, harmful and coercive behaviour that attempts to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity would be made a criminal offence. New civil protections would also be introduced. These would protect individuals and the wider LGBT+ community from harm without involving the police.

Conversion practices take many guises, from talking therapies, “healing prayers” and so-called treatments to controlling someone’s appearance and interactions. It might involve making people feel intimidated, threatened, or humiliated. Such acts are based on the false and dangerous notion that being LGBT+ is sinful, shameful or wrong and needs to be “cured”.

Conversion practices are not only widely discredited as illegitimate and ineffective, but can also cause significant and lasting harm to victims. The evidence is clear that these abhorrent practices are still taking place in Scotland. We need effective action now to protect LGBT+ people from harmful coercion. 

Any new law must be fully trans inclusive and protect all LGBTQIA+ people

As we noted in our response, any new law must be fully trans inclusive and protect all LGBTQIA+ people. Recently we spoke to Icelandic feminist and trans activist Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir about why this form of inclusion is so important. We also spoke to the Equality Network’s Erin Lux about the need for trans inclusivity in measures to tackle conversion practices.

Our response also makes crystal clear that nobody can genuinely consent to conversion practices . There should be no exceptions or opt-outs for people claiming their freedom of expression, religion or belief would be unfairly restricted. In implementing these proposals, the Scottish Government will send a clear message that no particular belief, religious or otherwise, can be invoked to justify degrading, harmful, or discriminatory actions against LGBT+ people. 

Now that the consultation has closed, we will continue to push the Scottish Government to keep its promise to the LGBT+ community. We want to see a bill introduced soon to end conversion practices in Scotland.

Image C. Rawpixel/Creative Commons

Latest Related Stories

Two police cars parked outside a street in a Scottish city.

Stirring up a storm in a teacup: Police Scotland only investigate nine “stirring up” incidents after first week of hate crime law

Stirring up a storm in a teacup: Police Scotland only investigate nine “stirring up” incidents after first week of hate crime law
View of the debating chamber at Holyrood, with concentric rings of lecterns around a speaker's podium

Hate crime and freedom of speech: Why are the Scottish government and police ignoring our advice on the Rabat Plan?

Hate crime and freedom of speech: Why are the Scottish government and police ignoring our advice on the Rabat Plan?
Fraser Sutherland, CEO of Humanist Society Scotland, addresses a crowd in a blue suit infront of an HSS banner.

Humanist Society Scotland in the media on assisted dying

Humanist Society Scotland in the media on assisted dying
Ugla sits on rainbow coloured steps. They have brown wavy hair, a maroon jacket and black jeans and rest their hands on their knees.

Humanist Society interview series: Icelandic feminist and trans activist Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir

Humanist Society interview series: Icelandic feminist and trans activist Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir