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World News

Scottish Parliament launches consulation on conversion therapy

by Premier Journalist

The Scottish Parliament is asking for people's views on whether conversion therapy should be banned or not. 

Conversion therapy covers a wide range of practices to change or suppress someone's sexuality or gender identity and does not have a clear definition - from acts most Christians consider abhorrent, such as abuse or forced fasting, to acts which divide the Christian community, such as praying with a gay person who wants pastoral support not to act on their sexuality. 

The Scottish Parliament - which has devolved powers - is now asking for people's opinions on a petition signed by 5,599 people that seeks to ban all forms of it, with the petition saying "this incredibly harmful practice especially targets LGBT+ people when they are at their most vulnerable."

Some Christian groups, such as the Evangelical Alliance, say the law would need to be clearly defined so that it would not ban prayer, nor a church's ability to hold a traditional view of sexuality and support their congregation in line with their beliefs. 

The consultation on the Scottish Parliament website asks: 'What are your views on the action called for in the petition?', 'What action would you like to see the Scottish Government take, within the powers available to it?' and  'Do you have suggestions on how the Committee can take forward its consideration of the petition? For example: who should it talk to? who should it hear from?'

In the previous session of the Parliament, the Public Petitions Committee received written evidence from the Scottish Government and then collectively: Stonewall Scotland, Equality Network, Scottish Trans Alliance, and LGBT Youth Scotland. 

The petition calls for the Scottish Government to use its devolved powers to ban attempts to change someone's sexuality as the UK Government promised also but has not yet. 

The petition talks about the harm it does to mental health, the requirement for counselling afterwards and suicide attempts, ending: "Given this information, it is clear that conversion therapy is a risk to public health, especially the mental health of vulnerable young adults and children. There is broad support for its criminalisation by those who have been subjected to it, and, as healthcare and criminal justice matter, we believe it to be within the scope of the Scottish Government’s powers to ensure this practice is brought to an end."

The UK Government is also launching a separate consultation on conversion therapy in September, as LGBT+ campaigners argue for it to implemented as soon as possible.

However, some same-sex attracted Christians who do not think it is right to act on their sexuality argue that they would still want to be able to access pastoral support, prayer and teaching from the Bible from their church leaders. 

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson reassured some Christian groups in April by saying: "I do not want to see clergy and church members criminalised for normal non-coercive activity."

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