Ending Conversion Practices Expert Advisory Group minutes: 11 August 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 11 August 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Blair Anderson, Lived Experience
  • Dr Paul Behrens, University of Edinburgh
  • Pritpal Bhullar, Sarbat LGBT+ Sikhs
  • Nick Bland, Equality and Inclusion Division, Scottish Government (chair)
  • Very Reverend Dr Susan Brown, Church of Scotland
  • Dr Rebecca Crowther, Equality Network
  • Richy Edwards, Lived Experience
  • Reverend Jide Macaulay, House of Rainbow
  • Colin Macfarlane, Stonewall Scotland
  • Dr Igi Moon, The Coalition for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Against Conversion Therapy
  • Florence Oulds, Scottish Trans
  • Reverend Elder Maxwell Reay, Metropolitan church, Augustine’s Edinburgh
  • Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Hannah Winter, Lived Experience

Guest Attendee

  • Nathan Despott, Brave Network and SOGICE Survivors, Australia

Scottish Government

  • Tara Lyle, Scottish Government
  • Rudi Paton, Scottish Government Legal Department


  • Lewis Todd, Scottish Government
  • Shumirai Mhonda-Kapora, Scottish Government


  • Dr Mhairi Crawford, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Dr Amber Keenan, NHS Grampian


Items and actions

Welcome and general updates

Chair welcomed attendees to the 7th and penultimate meeting of the Expert Advisory Group.

Key discussion points

Nathan Despott gave a presentation and provided an overview of the Civil Response Scheme contained in The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 (Victorian Law) from Victoria, Australia. He discussed the prevalence of conversion practices in Victoria before the law was introduced.

It was noted that under the Victorian Law, the approach to conversion practices focuses on the intention of the practice rather than the form or manner in which the practice was performed. In addition, the practice must be carried out for the ‘change or suppression’ of an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Regarding the Civil Response Scheme, the following was discussed:

The role and function of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Civil Response Scheme.

Triggers for an investigation by the Commission.

The reporting mechanism.

The relationship between investigation by the Commission and criminal investigation by the police.

Evidence requests procedure – under the Civil Response Scheme, the Commission can compel a party to provide evidence if an investigation is already being conducted, if not, they can only request evidence. However, failure or refusal to produce evidence can trigger an investigation.

The group also discussed:

The Brave Network which was set up to support the LGBTI community and people who have struggled to find a queer space of faith.

The Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Change Efforts (SOGICE) Survivors statement which outlines conversion ideology and is updated each year.

The importance of open conversation about conversion ideology especially as part of anti-conversion practices advocacy.

The Healing Spiritual Harms research which aims to investigate the recovery and support needs of survivors of conversion practices and inform mental health practitioners working with LGBTQA+ people recovering from the harms of conversion practices.

[Colin left the meeting]

Dr Paul Behrens gave a presentation on A Civil Response Scheme for Scotland: Overview. There was discussion on the following functions of the proposed Commission:

Educative function – general education including Outreach Programme and targeted Education for providers of conversion practices.

Research function – documentation of ongoing/historic instances of conversion practices in Scotland.

Support function – arranging counselling and other services and offering legal advice.

Investigative function – investigate reports or refer matter to the police and power to compel provision of documents or information.

Monitoring function – monitor the efficiency of the law banning conversion practices.

Amicus Curiae function – in proceedings before courts or tribunals.

Report function – annual reports and optional further reports.

The Group also discussed the establishment of an International Academic Project which might be independent from the Commission but could support the Commission and a free and accessible telephone helpline to provide support and advice to individuals regarding conversion practices.

Luis Felipe Yanes gave a presentation on the Challenges and Options for a Civil Response Scheme in Scotland.

The followings points were made and discussed:

Terminology -  the word ‘scheme’ might not be the best word to use due to its previous use in the Scottish context.

Financial limitations to the proposed civil response scheme.

The need for collaborative work between criminal and civil spheres.

The functions of the Scottish Human Rights Commission and of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Limitations on Scottish Government’s ability to bestow new powers on National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).

The possible roles of NHRIs, Regulators, Inspectors and Ombudsmen (RIOs), Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs), and Scottish Government Executive Agencies in a conversion practices civil response scheme.   

Whether civil response responsibilities should be given to one body or to several bodies.

Attendees also discussed the intended outcome of the proposed civil response scheme and ways to ensure the Scottish legislation to end conversion practices reflects and meets those objectives.

[Nathan Despott left the meeting]

Survivor input on support measures

Attendees heard from survivors of conversion practices as they shared their experiences of conversion practices and the effects this has had on their lives. They discussed:

The life-long, and often, debilitating impact of conversion practices including: shame, trauma, re-traumatisation, lack of support.

The negative impact of conversion practices on their personal relationships, career choices and every aspect of life.

The difficulty of building a life post conversion practice.

The long, often life-long, process of healing.

The lack of informed and competent help as therapists sometimes do not have a full understanding of conversion practices and their effect.

They also discussed the importance of hearing directly from survivors of conversion practices and the importance of ensuring survivors’ experiences and voices are part of conversations and decision making processes on work to end conversion practices and to advise on the support that should be in place.

Discussion on recommendations

On the Civil Response Scheme and Definitions the following was discussed:

The draft recommendations on the civil response scheme were discussed and the following points were raised:

Establishing a Commission to deal with various aspects relating to ending conversion practices.

The functions which the Commission would have.

The principles to guide the Commission.

On survivor support measures, the following was discussed:

The draft recommendations on survivor support measures were discussed and the following points were raised:

That support should be holistic and personal centred.

The need for competent therapeutic professionals and free mental health/ therapeutic support.

Training of professionals by survivors to ensure professionals have an adequate understanding of lived experiences of survivors of conversion practices.

Educating faith leaders, congregations, communities, youth leaders, teachers and healthcare professionals.

Payment for work and training done by survivors.

Emergency support for those escaping from conversion practices.

Safeguarding of children and adults.

A safe whistleblowing mechanism.

Mediation for willing survivors and perpetrators to engage in conflict resolution, rehabilitation and mapping a way forward.

[Nick Bland and Reverend Jide Macaulay left the meeting]

Discussion on structuring the recommendations and the report

Attendees briefly discussed the structure of the final recommendations.

Attendees were encouraged to make suggestions to the working document as this will be used to put together the final recommendations.

Next meeting focus

The next and final EAG meeting to be held at St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh on the 23rd of August and will cover healthcare and victim support  and finalising the recommendations.

Any other business

Attendees briefly discussed media engagement following the publication of the recommendations.

Further engagement the EAG might have with the work to take forward the recommendations following the end of its mandate at the end of August.


  • Secretariat to send to all members material from Nathan Despott
  • Members to contact Nathan Despott should they have further questions
  • Officials to discuss with the Minister the direction of travel following submission of group’s report and recommendations
  • Members to let secretariat know if they will be attending the final meeting in person


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