Gay conversion therapies 'still happening' says Sheffield LGBT charity following promise in Queen's speech to outlaw abhorrent practice

So-called gay conversion therapies are still occurring in Sheffield, says a charity, as it made calls for 'actions over words' in the latest promise to outlaw the practice.

Queen Elizabeth II delivers a speech from the throne in House of Lords as she outlines the government's legislative programme for the coming session

In the Queen's Speech in Parliament on Tuesday, promises were made to launch a consultation ahead of a proposed ban on the archaic practices, which seek to "fix" people after coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or other sexual orientations.

The practices can take the form of counselling or therapy which uses coercion, or even - in rarer cases - physical aversion such as electric shock therapy. Both have been described as forms of emotional abuse and physical torture, but are still technically legal.

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Tuesday's Queen’s Speech, setting out the Government’s legislative agenda, said measures will be brought forward to ban conversion therapy, and announced plans to launch a consultation before details of the ban are finalised in order to hear from a wide range of people.

So-called gay conversion therapies are still occurring, says a charity supporting LGBT people in Sheffield

But various charities and organisations supporting LGBTQ+ people criticised plans for a consultation, while saying that such a ban was promised back in July 2018 under Theresa May's government.

Heather Paterson, who is Chief Executive of the Sheffield-based charity SAYiT supporting young LGBTQ+ people, said the issue is something campaigners have been fighting to be outlawed for "years".

"The banning of gay conversion therapies was promised under Theresa May's government and time and time again before that," she said.

"It still hasn't happened, and now we are hearing there is going to be another consultation. Pretty much everyone agrees these are harmful practices which have no place in society – yet we know they are still happening here in Sheffield.

So-called gay conversion therapies are still occurring, an LGBT charity in Sheffield has said. Picture: Adobe Stock Images

"The damage it can do to people can take many different forms and there are still people around today who have historically been subjected to electric shock therapies."

Physical conversion therapies are rare, Ms Paterson said, as they may still be prosecuted as a form of assault, although other forms of the practice were still legal and freely occurring.

"They are quite often thought of as practices which only occur among certain faiths and communities, but they can happen to anyone, usually around the time a person has come out.

"The first step is getting them outlawed. We have seen people going through all these generations of trauma as a result of being told that they are wrong and need to be 'cured' or fixed'. So when we see this is still being delayed, from that we get the general sense that the government is not on our side and we are not valued or supported."

In March, Boris Johnson said ending conversion therapy is “technically complex” but insisted that ministers would “stamp it out” after three LGBT advisers resigned in protest.

Meanwhile, the Government has also commissioned research into the scope of practices and experiences of those subjected to conversion therapy.

New funding will go towards a victim support package to ensure that victims can access the support they need.

The GEO said it will be the first time the UK Government has offered such support.

Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss said: “As a global leader on LGBT rights, this Government has always been committed to stamping out the practice of conversion therapy.

“We want to make sure that people in this country are protected, and these proposals mean nobody will be subjected to coercive and abhorrent conversion therapy.

“Alongside this legislation, we will make new funding available to ensure that victims have better access to the support they need.”

SAYiT Sheffield is currently crowdfunding for a project to open a café in the city which would be a safe space for young LGBTQ+ people. A fundraising page for the cause is available here.