An expert group is to be established to advise the Scottish Government on the banning of conversion therapy practices, which aim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ministers have committed to introducing legislation to end conversion practices as comprehensively as possible within devolved powers by the end of 2023, but concerns have been voiced by some religious denominations about the effect on their beliefs and practices.

The group will include people with personal experience of conversion practices, as well as representatives from LGBTI organisations, faith and belief communities, mental health professionals and academics.

Its remit will include:

  •    recommending an agreed definition of conversion practices;
  •    drawing together existing data and evidence on conversion practices, including international practice; 
  •    advising on potential actions to ban, end, or reduce conversion practices;
  •    advising on support for victims and survivors;
  •    advising on aligning any ban with commitments to protect freedom of expression and freedom of religion, in line with existing legislation;
  •    advising on how mental health services, religious bodies and other professionals should be supported to provide appropriate services to people seeking help and advice in relation to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It is anticipated the group will begin its work early next year and this, alongside recommendations from the Equalities, Human Rights & Civil Justice Committee and other evidence and research, will inform the Scottish Government’s approach.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison commented: “We are clear about the need to end conversion practices in Scotland –  ensuring that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is safe from them. These practices are harmful, discriminatory, and have no place in our society.

“We will explore how legislation can best protect and support those who need it, while ensuring that freedoms – including freedoms of speech, religion, and belief – are safeguarded.

“We are also considering what non-legislative steps we can take to end conversion practices, and support survivors.”