Introduction and Background
The Expert Advisory Group on Ending Conversion Practices (the 'Group') was set up by the Scottish Government in March 2022. The Group was asked to provide recommendations on necessary measures, both under criminal law and outside criminal law, to end conversion practices in Scotland, and in doing so, to make sure that everyone in Scotland, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is safe from being subjected to these practices.
The Scottish Government's 2021-22 Programme for Government (PfG) made the commitment to "protect LGBT people from harm by banning the damaging promotion and practice of conversion therapy, bringing forward legislation that is as comprehensive as possible within devolved powers by the end of 2023, if UK Government proposals do not go far enough." This commitment is mirrored in the Bute House Agreement and has been reiterated in the 2022-23 Programme for Government.
The Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee carried out substantial work on the issue of conversion practices, following the lodging of Petition PE1817: End Conversion Therapy, which called on the Scottish Parliament "to urge the Scottish Government to ban the provision or promotion of LGBT+ conversion therapy in Scotland". The Committee published a report and recommendations on 25 January 2022. This report builds on the Committee's work. We expect the Scottish Government to use both our work and that of the Committee, as well as other already available evidence and research, including available research from the UK Government and other organisations, to inform their approach to ending conversion practices in Scotland.
We held our inaugural meeting on 31 March 2022 and met eight times through to 23 August 2022. The Group was made up of individuals who are experts in their fields from LGBT+ organisations, faith and belief organisations and communities, as well as experts in mental health, the law, human rights, academia and people with personal lived experience of conversion practices.
We carefully examined and discussed the issues in the Group's remit and have compiled this report, guiding principles, and related recommendations to advise the Scottish Government on actions to take in order to end conversion practices in Scotland.
Minutes and papers from the Group can be found on the Scottish Government website.
The UK Government made a commitment in July 2018 to "eradicate the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy". In May 2021, the UK Government announced measures would be brought forward to ban conversion therapy in the Queen's speech.
The UK Government then launched a consultation on banning conversion 'therapy' on 29th of October 2021, which closed on 4th of February 2022. It is understood that the UK Government intends to publish the response to this consultation later this year. The UK Government has also stated that its plans to introduce a ban on conversion 'therapy' in England and Wales would cover practices intended to change a person's sexual orientation, but would not cover practices intended to change a person's gender identity.
This report offers 32 guiding principles to the Scottish Government on measures to end conversion practices in Scotland. Each guiding principle is intended to work towards a holistic and inclusive end to conversion practices in Scotland. The work of the Group is trans-inclusive. Both measures under criminal law and measures outside criminal law (which we refer to in some instances as civil measures) must be trans-inclusive.
The guiding principles offer a clear framework to guide the Scottish Government in its approach to developing measures under criminal law, and measures outside criminal law, to end conversion practices. These principles are descriptive in nature and are supported by context and insight which explains the reasoning and background behind each principle. We believe that they are key to developing the Scottish Government's work on conversion practices and we therefore hope that all guiding principles will be followed.
The recommendations in the Annex at the end of this report are intended as a set of more prescriptive recommendations to the Scottish Government and set out how the Group envisages the guiding principles taking shape within legislation and other civil measures.
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