The government’s process to ban so-called conversion therapies has been extended by eight weeks.
Ministers are consulting on a new law which imposes penalties on groups offering the discredited practice in a move designed to protect LGBT people.
The government said in October it would create a new criminal offence within months to end the coercive pseudo-scientific ‘treatments’.
The original consultation period had been due to end on Friday, with legislation introduced by spring 2022, four years after it first became official policy.
A consultation on the changes has been extended but the government says it still remains committed to hitting its spring deadline.
Women and equalities minister Liz Truss said the government is ‘absolutely determined’ to introduce a ban but it wants to ‘hear all views on the best ways to do that’.
Critics of the plans say they should go further, outlawing all conversion therapy.
The government must ‘strike the correct balance to stamp out’ the practice ‘while protecting free speech, according to equalities minister Mike Freer.
Part of the plans include creating a new offence for talking therapies that seek to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, when committed against under-18s in all circumstances and adults who have not given fully informed consent.
Consent in relation to so-called conversion therapies is a vexed question, with the government accepting ‘the freedom of an adult to enter such an arrangement should be protected’.
But it said consent requirements and safeguards would be ‘robust and stringent’ with adults being made aware of potential harms.
Simply expressing the teachings of a religion will not constitute conversion therapy under the proposals, and it cannot be ‘reasonably understood’ to include casual conversations or private prayer.
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Ministers will legislate to ensure that when existing violent offences are motivated by conversion therapy, this is considered as a potential aggravating factor when the perpetrator is sentenced.
Under the proposals, those found guilty of conversion therapy offences would have any profit obtained removed.
There are also plans to introduce civil measures such as Conversion Therapy Protection Orders.
The new tool would include measures like removing the passports of potential victims at risk of being taken overseas.
Officials are also drawing up plans to prevent the promotion of the practice online and set up a new support service of victims or those at risk of being exploited.
Speaking after the plans were first announced, shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds said the proposals left ‘the door ajar for people to “consent” to these insidious practices on religious grounds’, adding Labour would introduce a ‘genuine ban’ if it were in power.
After announcing the extension, Ms Truss said: ‘We are absolutely committed to a ban which will make sure LGBT people can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse, whilst protecting free speech as well as protecting under-18s from being channelled into an irreversible decisions about their future.’
Mr Freer said: ‘The focus for the ban will be on those who actively seek to change someone’s sexuality or transgender status, with protection for young people a particular priority.’
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