Home > Our Work > Policy team > Ending Conversion Practices > Longer Consultation Guide

Ending Conversion Practices Consultation - Longer guide

Thank you to everyone who responded to the Scottish Government consultation on ending conversion practices. The consultation has now closed. The next step is that the Scottish Government will analyse the consultation responses and publish a report, as well as continuing to develop their policy on this. We hope that they will then speedily bring forward legislation in the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government was consulting the public on a proposed new law aiming to end conversion practices in Scotland – the deadline for responding to the consultation was Tuesday April 2nd 2024.

This guide will take you through how we will be responding to each question on the consultation. As there are 30+ questions, this may take some time, so if you only have a few minutes to spare, check out our shorter guide here.

It is vital that as many LGBTQA+ people as possible respond to this, as well as our friends, family and allies, so we can ensure protection for our community from these harmful practices in the future. You can also find out more about what conversion practices are here, and read a simple summary of what the proposed legislation would do here.

Below we’ve outlined a short summary of how we’ll be responding to each question in the consultation.

You don’t have to respond to every question, but we recommend you at least answer questions 1 – 6 and questions 17 and 18. You also need to fill out the “About You” page at the end for your response to be accepted.

The questions which make up the consultation are spread across several different pages, which give short explanations for the proposals that the Scottish Government would like your opinion on. Many of the questions are paired together, with the first question giving you options to say whether your agree or disagree with a specific proposal, and the following question allowing you explain your answer in your own words.

Your response can be as short or as detailed as you want, and you can save your response and come back to it later if you need to. It’s best to put your answers in your own words and share your own opinions and experiences so the Scottish Government can hear a wide variety of perspectives.

Questions 1 - 10

First, open the consultation page here.

The questions which make up the consultation are spread across several different pages, which give short explanations for the proposals that the Scottish Government would like your opinion on.

On the page “Defining conversion practices for this legislation”, we’re answering:

  • “Yes” to Question 1
  • Because (Question 2): Conversion practices are harmful – let’s protect all LGBTQA+ people, with a trans and asexual inclusive ban that covers sexual orientation and gender identity.

On the page “Suppression”, we’re answering:

  • “It should be covered” to Question 3
  • Because (Question 4): We should all be able to live freely as our true selves, no matter who we are or who we love. Making someone suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity can be just as harmful as trying to make them change it. No LGBTQA+ person should be forced to keep who they are buried or out of sight. Suppression must be included in the law.

On the page “Overview of proposals”, we’re answering:

  • “Support” to Question 5
  • Because (Question 6): It is better to protect from harm in the first place than to punish people after they have done harm. We want the criminal law to be a last resort. That’s why we support the proposed civil protection orders.

On the page “Offence of engaging in conversion practices: the provision of a service”, we’re answering:

  • “Support” to Question 7
  • Because (Question 8): This proposed offence will cover providing a service (whether that’s called counselling or treatment, or involves coaching or instruction) that is done with the intention of changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and which causes them harm. Such “services” are fraudulent because they do not work. Where organisations claim to be providing this kind of “service” they may be responsible for attempts to change or suppress the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of numerous people, and can cause huge harm. They should be stopped.

On the page “Offence of engaging in conversion practices: coercive course of behaviour”, we’re answering:

  • “Support” to Question 9
  • Because (Question 10): It is right to ban coercive conversion practices, with a definition of coercion that covers being threatening or violent, controlling the person, manipulating them or pressuring them, or frightening, or degrading them. We see no reason why such coercive behaviour, directed at another person on more than one occasion, and which causes them harm, could ever be justified. Simply expressing an opinion on another person being LGBTQA+, or for example preaching about it, is not coercion, and so would not be banned.

Questions 11 - 22

On the page “Offence of engaging in conversion practices: harm”, we’re answering:

  • “Agree” to Question 11
  • Because (Question 12): Conversion practices are inherently harmful – it’s one reason they should be banned. Often the harm caused is to mental health. It is very important that the definition of harm includes physical and psychological harm, including causing fear, alarm and distress. It is important also to recognise that the harm caused may not be immediately apparent.

On the page “Offence of engaging in conversion practices: defence of reasonableness”, we’re answering:

  • “Don’t know” to Question 13
  • Because (Question 14): We know that a “defence of reasonableness” is used in other areas of the criminal law, including for serious crimes like domestic abuse and stalking. But we’re concerned that allowing conversion practices to happen so long as they are “reasonable” is much too vague, and leaves the way open for those who claim that prejudice against LGBTQA+ people, and trying to convert them, is reasonable.

On the page “Offence of engaging in conversion practices: proposed penalty”, we’re answering:

  • “Agree” to Question 15
  • Because (Question 16): We think that in the vast majority of cases, the penalty for a person convicted of conversion practices will be far lower than the maximum allowed – typically a fine for a first offence. But it is right that heavier sentences are available for the most serious cases that cause people great harm.

On the page “Criminal offences – additional considerations”, we’re answering

  • “Yes” to Question 17
  • Because (Question 18): Conversion practices are done to LGBTQA+ people based on the belief that we are ‘broken’ or need to be ‘fixed’. They don’t work, and can cause lifelong harm. People are pressured into ‘consenting’ to conversion practices, and are not told the practices don’t work and are very harmful. That is not genuine free consent, and there should be no loophole allowing conversion practices that people have ‘consented’ to.
  • For Question 19, we’ll be saying that it will be vital that criminal justice agencies including the police are well trained on this legislation, and develop positive working with LGBTQA+ communities.

On the page “Removing a person from Scotland for conversion practices”, we’re answering:

  • “Support” for Question 20
  • Because (Question 21): Conversion practices currently remain legal in the rest of the UK, and in many other countries. Banning them in Scotland is likely to lead to people being taken elsewhere for these practices. So it is important that it is also an offence for a person in Scotland to cause another person to leave Scotland with the intention that they be subjected to conversion practices in another country.
  • “Support” for Question 22
  • Because (Question 23): We think that in the vast majority of cases, the penalty for a person convicted this offence will be far lower than the maximum allowed – typically a fine for a first offence. But it is right that heavier sentences are available for the most serious cases that cause people great harm.

Questions 24 - 38

On the page “Conversion practices as an aggravating factor for existing offences”, we’re answering:

  • “Support” for Question 24
  • Because (Question 25): Sometimes conversion practices are so serious that they constitute an existing criminal offence, for example physical or sexual assault. In those cases it’s important that the perpetrator can be charged with that existing offence. Making the motive of conversion practices an aggravating factor means that the motive is taking into account in prosecution and sentencing decisions, and is properly recorded.

On the page “Consideration of Convention Rights”, we’re answering:

  • Question 26: We think that the proposals are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The proposed new offences only apply where conversion practices are directed at a person and cause them harm. The Convention not only allows, but requires, the law to restrict people from causing harm to others. The proposals will have no effect on people expressing their opinion, or preaching about LGBTQA+ matters.

On the page “A new civil order relating to conversion practices”, we’re answering:

  • “Support” to Question 27
  • Because (Question 28): Use of the criminal law to stop conversion practices should be a last resort. The proposed civil orders provide a way to stop conversion practices from harming someone, using an application to the civil court, without criminal prosecution, and without involving the police.

On the page “A new civil order relating to conversion practices: considerations”, we’re answering:

  • “Agree” to Question 29
  • Because (Question 30): It’s important that a civil order to protect a person from conversion practices can be applied for, to the court, by the person themself, or by the local council, or by a suitable voluntary organisation. That’s important so that people have options to approach an organisation they can trust, to get the protection.

On the page “A new civil order relating to conversion practices: additional considerations”, we’re answering:

  • For Question 31, we’ll be saying that the proposals for civil orders are good as far as they go. But we are concerned about whether, in practice, people who need to protect themselves against conversion practices, but who do not want to involve the police, will have a good option for applying for a civil order. Will local councils support people properly to apply for an order? Will voluntary organisations be able to access the resources and expertise needed to do support people to do that?
  • In addition, we think there needs to be more consideration given to the recommendations in part 16 of the consultation paper. The proposed criminal offences and conversion practices protection orders are good proposals, but may not help those who are unwilling to report to the police or appear in court. People from ethnic and religious minority communities for example may find it very difficult to access help in this way. We strongly believe that consideration should be given to less adversarial approaches like those provided in the state of Victoria, Australia, including powers vested in a civil body to conduct investigations and conclude agreements.

On the page “Impact assessments”:

  • For Question 32, we’ll be answering that the proposals will have a wholly positive impact on equality by gender reassignment and sexual orientation. We think that the proposed law will have no adverse impact on religion and belief. It will not stop people preaching or expressing their faith; it will just stop harmful coercion of other people.
  • Depending on your personal experiences and circumstances, you may want to reply to other questions on this page (Questions 33 – 38) about the impact of the proposals on different communities.

On the page “About you”, you have to fill in all the required fields. Your email address will be kept confidential, and if you select “Publish response only (without name)” or “Do not publish response”, your name will also be kept confidential.

Finally, on the page “Evaluation” there is a question about what you think of the consultation process.

That’s it! Make sure you click “Finish” at the bottom of the main page when you’re done. (The Finish button only appears after you have filled in the “About you” page)

Support for Survivors

Thinking about your response to this consultation may be stressful, and particularly traumatic if you are a survivor of conversion practice attempts.

If you are experiencing conversion practices now, have done in the past, or are worried you may you can get help and support here: https://www.lgbthealth.org.uk/services-support/conversion-practices/

Join our eNewsletter

Join 20,000 people and sign up to our mailing list today. View previous newsletters here.

30 Bernard Street
Edinburgh EH6 6PR