Ending Conversion Practices Expert Advisory Group minutes: 18 May 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 18 May 2022.


Attendees and apologies

Members

  • Blair Anderson, Lived Experience
  • Dr Paul Behrens, University of Edinburgh
  • Pritpal Bhullar, Sarbat LGBT+ Sikhs
  • Nick Bland, Equality and Inclusion Division, Scottish Government (chair)
  • Dr Rebecca Crowther, Equality Network
  • Richy Edwards, Lived Experience
  • Dr Amber Keenan, NHS Grampian
  • Reverend Elder Maxwell Reay, Metropolitan church, Augustine’s Edinburgh
  • Dr Mhairi Crawford, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans (substituting for Florence Oulds)
  • Hannah Winter, Lived Experience
  • Luis Felipe Yanes, Scottish Human Rights Commission

Other officials: 

  • Jenny Kemp, Scottish Government
  • Tara Lyle, Scottish Government
  • Stephen Fricker, Equality, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee
  • Katrina Venters, Equality, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee

Secretariat

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

Apologies

  • Very Reverend Dr Susan Brown, Church of Scotland
  • 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

Items and actions

Welcome and general updates

Engagement with ethnic minorities out with the Expert Advisory Group and ensuring that this engagement was recorded. 

The availability of a counsellor for a short period after the meeting would be useful.

What to do in instances where there was no unanimous agreement and how to record the differing opinions.

Members with certain areas of expertise to work together to develop preparatory materials ahead of relevant meetings. 

Developing the recommendations 

Members discussed:

The use of Google Docs as a shared work space to allow for collaborative working on documents.

The secretariat leading on drafting the recommendations in collaboration with the Group.

The possibility of adding an additional meeting to the Group’s work programme to give more time for discussing recommendations.

The need to develop draft recommendations on an ongoing basis, to ensure that there was enough time for reflection, before issuing the final recommendations.

The suggestion to have an option of 'minority opinions' i.e. group members who were not able to support the majority view (or support it for different reasons) would be able to put their own reasoned opinion on record.

Support for victims and survivors of conversion practices

Members discussed:

The Government Equalities Office’s Galop helpline and the possibility of this being expanded to cover devolved nations.

The German telephone support line, which has recently started was mentioned as another example for support services for victims, but also for persons who have questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ensuring that non-criminal measures were written into the legislation to strengthen the protections, future-proof them and to ensure that they were introduced at the same time as the legislation.

The need to refer to ‘non-legislative’ measures as ‘non-criminalisation’ measures.

The need to look at ‘past harm’ and the prevention of ‘future harm’.

The importance of ensuring that people knew what Conversion Practices were. Many victims and survivors were unaware that they were being subjected to Conversion Practices until much later, impeding them from seeking help sooner or at all.

Updating safeguarding legislation to reflect the end of conversion practices and looking at preventative measures though a safeguarding lens.

How to support survivors who were subjected to conversion practices in a faith setting and still wanted to remain in the faith community.

The importance of acknowledging that survivors were all ages, including vulnerable adults, and the need for support to be tailored to the different needs of the survivors.

Updating the guidance on transgender healthcare and affirmative therapy, as required.

The need for engagement with all sectors, ensuring a clear understanding of what constituted conversion practices, what did not, and what their responsibilities were.

Providing facilities for the safe reporting of conversion practices.

Provision of counselling for victims.

Establishing advocacy services to support victims – the legal system could be overwhelming for some survivors and victims of conversion practices.

How the work to end conversion practices echoed the work around violence against women and girls (VAWG), providing an opportunity to look at VAWG work and learn from best practice.

Carrying out an information campaign, making people aware of the support that was available, and learning from other jurisdictions’ campaigns. 

Carrying out an outreach campaign to combat stereotypes of LGBT+ life, which could be helpfully supported by prominent LGBT+ persons who were willing to engage in educational efforts of that kind. Such outreach campaigns were seen as particularly important in areas in which a vibrant and visible LGBT+ community did not yet exist.

The importance of not forgetting the suffering of previous victims of conversion practices and to engage in the documentation of historical instances of CP.

Capacity building

The importance of considering 3 layers of capacity building: 

  • direct training for those who provided services e.g. those who educated, those who were advocates or had direct contact with the public
  • training for those who provided training and those in leadership positions
  • training the experts and ensuring that they stayed abreast of developments and continued to deliver best practice in their areas of expertise

The roll out of suicide awareness training could offer examples of best practice, which could be emulated for capacity building for ending conversion practices.

It was important to distinguish according to sector and tailor capacity building and training accordingly.

The importance of survivors’ perspectives in training.

Section 18 of The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 (Victoria Act) placed a duty on their Human Rights Commission to "establish and undertake information and education programs in relation to change or suppression practice". Something similar could be adopted in Scotland.

Financial resources would be needed for capacity building.  

The Group also discussed ‘affirmative therapy’ and the following points were made:

A clear definition of what Conversion Practices were, like that in the Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill 2018 (Irish Bill), meant that there would be no need to define what conversion practices were not, provide exclusions or define what ‘affirmative therapy’ was. 

Focus should be on what Conversion Practices were and not what they were not.

There should not be any exemptions specified in the legislation. Exceptions could create loop holes, could also be added to, and this could dilute the protections offered.

It was important to make clear that clinical decisions made regarding transgender people did not fall under conversion practices.

There might be a deliberate conflation of Conversion Practices, ‘affirmative therapy’ and clinical medical decision-making. It was important that this did not derail what the group, and legislation, were setting out to achieve.

Next meeting focus

Assigning time to analyse the Victoria Act in detail and the possibility of having a presentation delivered by officials involved in the Victoria law to better understand the process they undertook.

Looking at suggestions made by the Magnus-Hirschfield Foundation, including a longer-term project with the participation of various stakeholders on this matter.

Having a meeting to discuss human rights, including: What human rights law allowed what human rights law demanded; and what else Scotland could do.

Additional meetings to allow enough time to discuss topics in detail.

Having a longer meeting before the final meeting to discuss in detail the proposed recommendations.

Having an in person meeting.

Actions

Look into having a counsellor present for a short period after meetings.

Create an excel spreadsheet to supplement the main working document.

Members with expertise to provide preparatory materials ahead of the next meeting.

Members to send examples of measures to support victims and survivors adopted in other jurisdictions.

Secretariat to consider future work programme and meetings, including the possibility of an in person meeting.

Equality and Inclusion Division, May 2022

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