Home   News   Article

Scottish Government equalities minister Emma Roddick MSP puts out call for responses to conversion therapy ban proposals in final week of consultation

By Andrew Henderson

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!

The Scottish Government are still appealing for responses to their proposals to ban conversion therapy.

Their ongoing consultation is set to close at midnight on April 2, with opinions being sought over the attempt to outlaw practices to try and change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

• Keep up to date with the latest LGBTQ+ news from around the Highlands by signing up to our newsletter, The Queerier

All elected political parties in Holyrood have committed to some form of ban on conversion therapy, and as the minister for equalities, migration and refugees Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick has put out a call for people to make their voices heard in the final week of the consultation.

“This mainly came about when the Equalities Committee decided to look into how big an issue this was in Scotland and how we can look at a ban,” Roddick recalled.

“We have heard from so many people who have been subject to conversion practices in Scotland. That has caused them harm – sometimes lifelong physical and mental difficulties.

Holyrood with Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick inset.
Holyrood with Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick inset.

“It’s not in line with our values in an equal and fair Scotland that people are tortured for who they are and who they love. The question is just what the best and most effective way of banning it is.

“I’m also responsible in government for all equalities, so I have to make sure we do this in a way that is respecting existing rights and freedoms, but also protects people from the worst types of harm.

“That’s what we’re trying to do – put together a proposal that will successfully do that and ban conversion practices without harming freedom to religion and private life.

“We’re taking views from anyone who thinks we should be going further, or who thinks we’ve gone too far, so that when we eventually bring the bill to parliament it’s as strong as it can be.”

Initial reaction when the consultation first opened was often negative from people and organisations with strong religious beliefs.

Balancing people’s right to religious expression is one of the fine lines Ms Roddick has to walk, but she feels there are lots of misconceptions around the current set of proposals.

“That’s a question that I actually get all the time: is there any point to doing this?” Ms Roddick said.

“I’ve met people who have been harmed by conversion practices in Scotland, and we’ve heard through the UK-wide LGBT+ survey that a number of people have reported being offered and going through these practices.

“For me, it’s definitely worth doing what we can to protect people from going through that suffering and having a life-long impact on them.

“The pushback has been from those who are – rightly – trying to protect freedom to religion and the rights of parents to parent their children.

“I don’t want to get in the way of that at all. Where it becomes an issue is when someone is causing harm to someone else on the basis of religious beliefs – that is the point where we want to protect people.

“Straight after the consultation was launched, a lot of people I was meeting believed the proposals said something they didn’t. I just had to say ‘I hear you, but that’s not what we’re proposing to do’. Go and get involved and say in the consultation that it absolutely shouldn’t change to include that.

“A big challenge of mine is making sure the communication is getting out there around what our proposals actually say.

“I totally appreciate that people don’t have time to read every publication the government puts out, so people will be getting their information from reactions on the internet and headlines without looking at the details. I need to try and make sure that people are hearing what we’re doing, and what we’re not doing.

“What I’ve been trying to get across from day one is that we’re not trying to criminalise conversations parents have with children. That is a good thing, I want to encourage those conversations.

“If kids have a home where they are able to talk about their sexual orientation and gender identity, they are far less at risk of falling to these online organisations who want to subject them to conversion practices because they believe those kids are somehow wrong.

“They will be far less vulnerable to it if they can just go and speak to their parents.”

Proposals as currently set out cover coercive behaviours and formalised services, as those are issues that have already been highlighted to the Scottish Government in their initial consultations.

Similar steps have already been introduced, either partially or in full, in 16 countries around the world – with full bans in place in countries as far afield as Spain, Canada and New Zealand.

Ms Roddick, then, is keen to ensure that whatever legislation is eventually brought before parliament is actually enforceable on a practical level.

“One of the tests that has to be met is that there has to be a specific victim in order to be captured by a criminal offence,” she explained.

“Someone professing their beliefs saying that you cannot be trans or you should not be gay, or someone preaching within a church, cannot be captured by the criminal offence that we have proposed as long as they’re not directing hatred towards a specific individual.

“The bar is set high for proving intent, proving coercion and proving that actual harm was caused to the victim.

“That’s why another part of our proposals is the civil protection orders, which will allow the police, local authorities or other agencies who have a concern that someone might be posing a risk to the wider community – to LGBTQ+ people generally – to apply for these civil protection orders to prevent that person from causing that harm.

“That’s probably where we can see real impact quickly, because it will be at police discretion. It will be able to protect more people rather than somebody having to be harmed in the first place, and for it to have gone through court.

“A lot of the people who gave evidence didn’t really want to go through that court process – they just wanted this to be against the law.”

Read the current set of proposals and respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation here

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More