THE Welsh Government and NHS Wales have taken a step forward in the process of banning conversion therapy.

Earlier this month, the Welsh Government confirmed it was seeking “urgent legal advice” on the actions it could take to ban the practice, and that it would seek “the devolution of any necessary additional powers required to see this through”.

This came after what it described as a “partial U-turn” by the UK Government.

Initially, the UK Government announced that ministers were scrapping plans to ban the practice. But then, following widespread backlash, the Government said it was committed to a legislative ban, but that separate work is required to “consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy further”.

The Welsh Government described the omission of trans people in the ban as “unacceptable”.

This led to more than 80 LGBT+ groups and more than 20 HIV groups saying they would not take part in the Safe To Be Me conference, scheduled for June, and the UK’s LGBT+ business champion Iain Anderson stepping down.

The charity Stonewall describes conversion therapy as: “any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity.

“It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’.” 

Deputy minister for social partnership Hannah Blythyn announced the measures that the Welsh Government was taking to push forward with banning the practice in Wales.

“In addition to seeking legal advice to determine all the levers we have in Wales to end the practice of conversion therapy unilaterally, we will educate and raise awareness of the horrors and ineffectiveness of conversion therapy practices by establishing a dedicated campaign in Wales,” she said.

“Alongside this, work will be undertaken to better understand the impact of conversion ‘therapy’ on survivors to enable support services to be improved and we will establish a working group of experts, to include representatives from faith communities; the health and social care sector; and children and young people’s representatives, alongside LGBTQ+ people to help with this work and advise on key elements as a ban is developed.”

The minister also announced that the Welsh Government and NHS Wales have signed up to a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with the Coalition Against Conversion Therapy.

Organisations who sign the memorandum commit to ensure they do not commission or provide conversion therapy in Wales.

In a joint statement, chief medical officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton and Judith Paget, chief executive of NHS Wales, said: “The Welsh Government and NHS Wales fully support the banning of LGBTQ+ conversion therapy, witnessed through our signing of the MoU with the Coalition Against Conversion Therapy.

“We stand united in our desire to make this abhorrent practice illegal and believe this will offer an important opportunity to support those at risk of conversion therapy as well as victims and survivors.”