Statement to Scottish Parliament

Conversion therapy – more accurately known as conversion practices, given that UK government research shows they occur mostly in religious settings and are definitely not therapeutic – constitutes at a minimum degrading treatment of an individual and can even, according to the UN, under certain circumstances amount to torture.  Based on discriminatory beliefs, they undermine our right to a family life and our human dignity, and perpetuate a continuum of violence towards us as a community.

These are clear violations of Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and states are therefore under a positive legal obligation to provide an adequate framework of protection for LGBT+ people.

Scotland has a unique opportunity to lead the world in this area, if they have the courage to do what the British government are failing to do and provide a fully comprehensive ban that has no loopholes or get out clauses.

This will necessitate tackling head on the complex issues of freedom of religion and belief and freedom of speech.  The group of senior human rights experts behind the Cooper Report, which I convened and which Baroness Helena Kennedy chairs, has made it clear that actions to limit the manifestation of religious belief that are necessary, proportionate and justified must be taken if any ban is to hold.  What is more, they are unanimous that given the imbalance of power frequently involved and the significant number of vulnerable people who are at risk of being harmed, the law cannot and does not allow for “consent” to be used as a defence.

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