The UK’s controversial Conversion Therapy (Prohibition) Bill is being met with some fierce opposition. The backlash comes as it was revealed doctors and teachers could be targeted in the new laws.
It has emerged for the first time that teachers could be covered by the new rules. The group Sex Matters said this means a teacher explaining how gender identity is different from sex – and how “wanting to change gender” is not the same as being the opposite sex – might be accused of “conversion therapy”.
The campaigners said it means that if a school says a child is not allowed to use opposite-sex toilets or changing rooms, they could face accusations of undertaking conversion therapy. The law could also cover teachers not allowing a male child to compete in girls' sports, or teachers refusing to change a child's pronouns and keep their sex secret, they fear.
An ‘easy reading’ guide was published about the bill, after government ministers published an online consultation document that failed to reveal teachers would be subject to the new laws. The guide also conflated sex and gender stating orientation means “what gender you are attracted to” – rather than sex.
Opponents to the bill include backbenches and Maya Forstater who was sacked for defending biological sex-based rights.
Maya Forstater, co-founder of Sex Matters, said: “The 'easy reading' guide shows how poorly thought-out this legislation is. Once the proposals are spelled out in plain language, it becomes all too easy to see what a bad idea they are.”
Tory backbenchers yesterday lined up to warn Boris Johnson to drop the proposals. Tim Loughton, a former children's minister, said: “This legislation risks trampling over the vulnerabilities of children, many of whom are entering into drug treatments that are life-changing and can also make them sterile.” Damian Green, the former first secretary of state, added: “The Government must extend the consultation period and commit to pre-legislative scrutiny so that this can be thought through properly, rather than simply following Stonewall's line.”
Spokeswoman for Binary, Kirralie Smith, said it was another example of government overreach.
“So called conversion therapy laws have been highly controversial wherever they have been rolled out,” she said.
“There is no evidence that anyone is practicing harmful treatments that have long been disregarded. These new laws are all about policing speech, conflating sex and gender and promoting a political ideology.
“These new laws attempt to criminalise and penalise parents, doctors and teachers who try to help children accept their biological reality.”
The group Sex Matters says parents could fall foul of the law for refusing to use the correct pronoun or for taking children abroad to avoid people pressurising them into transitioning.
Some 2500 parents, teachers and therapists have written to their MPs via the website of campaign group Sex Matters to protest against the changes.
One wrote: “It is not bigoted or phobic to pause and investigate the reasons why a child may report dysphoria.” A consultation on the new law is due to end on Friday, but the Daily Mail has been told that ministers are now considering extending it to allow more people to have their say. It follows last week’s chaos when an ‘easy read’ of the consultation document had to be removed because it did not accurately reflect the Government’s proposals.
The consultation period has only been six weeks, half the time usually given to public consultation. This may be extended due to the public outcry.