Tory MP urges PM to speed up conversion therapy ban warning victims are being subjected to ‘torture’
Rishi Sunak should speed up the long-awaited ban on conversion therapy, a Tory MP has warned, saying that people were facing “emotional abuse” akin to “torture”.
Elliot Colburn, the MP for Carshalton and Wallington, gave examples of conversion therapy disguised as “pseudo religious and pseudo psychological” that he said constituents of his were being subjected to.
“I had one constituent who had to go to their place of worship for seven days a week and was subjected to hours and hours of groups of religious leaders praying over them, literally over them. Laying them down and having them pray over their body, speaking in tongues and things like that,” he said.
“Saying things like, ‘Devil get out, devil get out’. And that, to me, is a form of emotional abuse and I’d even go so far to say is torture. That’s a lot to subject someone to. And that’s still happening in our country today.”
In an interview with GB News, he added that he was concerned that the Government has been too slow to enforce the long-awaited ban, arguing that the legislation was “simple”.
He suggested the delay was due to the increasingly “toxic” debate around LGBT – in particular, transgender, issues.
A ban on conversion therapy – which refers to a practice where people try to change someone’s sexuality, or gender identity, for example to stop them from being gay – was first announced under Theresa May’s premiership.
At one point, the plan was scrapped by the government. It was then watered down so as not to include conversion therapy for transgender people.
Ministers now say they intend to enact a complete ban and the Government is due to publish draft legislation with the aim of seeking pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposed law.
But Mr Colburn said that he was worried time was running out to push ahead with the legislation.
“What we’re concerned about at the moment, those of us who are campaigning on this, is that we’ve been waiting for that now for some time and we’re about to come to the end of the parliamentary session. We want to just get this off the ground,” he said.
“It’s relatively straightforward legislation. It really is. All it is asking is for no-one to be subjected to abuse because of their identity. And it’s a relatively simple concept in my mind.
“But sadly, because of the very loud and toxic debate that has started, particularly around the trans community, but other parts of the LGBT community as well, I think that’s the reason that there’s been such a delay. Because the Government I think is struggling to navigate that minefield.”
He said he was aware of constituents who are enduring forms of conversion therapy.
“Some of the more recent examples I’ve had from constituents who are being subjected to things that are still legal are things such as deliverance, prayer, exorcisms and things like that.
He added: “Of course, a lot of the stories that you hear of shock therapy, of corrective rape and things like that, of course they’re already illegal. We absolutely accept that. But there are practices, pseudo religious and pseudo psychological practices, that are still happening today dressed up as legitimate therapy, which seek to change someone’s identity. And that’s what I don’t think is right.”
A spokesperson for the Government Equalities Hub said: “This Government is committed to protecting people at risk from conversion practices. As part of this we will publish a draft bill setting out our approach, which will be scrutinised by a Joint Committee of both Houses in this parliamentary session.
“This will allow for in-depth analysis and challenge to test the policy and drafting and ensure we address any risk of unintended impacts.”
Mr Colburn, who is gay, also spoke of encountering homophobia since entering politics.
“I think it was actually during the election campaign before I was elected as an MP. I’d obviously seen and experienced homophobia before, but I think it really hit home for me,” he said.
“There was this moment when I was in Wallington High Street, one of the largest high streets in my patch, and this guy came up to me and said, ‘I was going to vote for you, but I found out that you’re gay. That’s disgusting. I’m voting for the Brexit Party’.”
He said he froze “in shock” and did not respond to the man. “That stuck with me. Because I really didn’t know how to react in that situation because I thought, ‘This is so irrational’,” Mr Colburn added.