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PM urged to ban practice purporting to 'cure' gays

By Ashley Cowburn

Labour has demanded Theresa May ban the "cruel and inhumane" practice of gay conversion therapy as the Government prepares to publish its major LGBT+ action plan.

The party's call comes as the Prime Minister is set to launch her proposals later this week, alongside the world's largest survey of LGBT+ people, detailing the responses of 108,000 individuals in the UK.

Gay conversion therapy has been at the centre of controversy in Northern Ireland in recent years. In 2008 Iris Robinson said she believed homosexuality was "an abomination", but claimed that she knew a psychiatrist who had been able to steer gay people towards a heterosexual life.

And earlier this year there was a dispute after a Christian organisation that believes gay people "can choose not to live out homosexuality" was stopped from showing a film in Belfast.

Labour claims the controversial practice - sometimes referred to as "gay cure" - which aims to change or alter an individual's sexual orientation has "spread fear and hatred" in society and calls for legislation from ministers to make it illegal.

Several organisations, including NHS England, the British Psychological Society, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists published a "memorandum of understanding" in 2014 describing conversion therapy as "unethical and potentially harmful".

Despite campaigns and attempts by backbench MPs to ban the practice, there are currently no laws against it.

In 2016 Malta became the first European country to outlaw conversion therapy after the country's parliament voted unanimously for a Bill which detailed fines and jail sentences for any individual found guilty of trying to "change, repress or eliminate a person's sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression".

Labour's Dawn Butler, the shadow equalities minister, said: "We must finally see an end to cruel and inhumane conversion therapies, which have been allowed to spread fear and hatred in our society for far too long."

Ahead of the publication of the LGBT+ action plan, the party also urges ministers to reinstate cuts to the administrative equalities budget, which has almost halved since 2010.

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