Gender-affirming care for children could be considered “a new form of conversion therapy”, Kemi Badenoch has said.
The women and equalities minister made the claim as she confirmed ministers still have plans to bring forward a Bill to ban conversion therapy practices, but said the legislation has to address issues with affirmation care.
Conversion therapy practices seek to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Government first promised to ban the practices under Theresa May’s premiership, while Boris Johnson repeated the pledge when he was prime minister.
In the Commons, Tory former minister Sir Conor Burns asked “if it is still the Government’s intention to bring forward conversion therapy ban legislation to this House”.
Ms Badenoch said she was “very happy to confirm that” and said: “A commitment was given to publish a draft Conversion Practices Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. I am determined to meet this promise, as I know is the minister for equalities.
“Attempts at so-called conversion therapy are abhorrent and are largely already illegal. So what a Bill would do is identify this as a particular threat to gay people and confirm the illegality of harmful processes intended to change someone’s sexuality.”
She added: “In that time since this Bill was first promised, this issue has developed. Now the threat to many young gay people is not conversion relating to their sexuality but conversion relating to gender identity. Girls like Keira Bell who were rushed on to puberty blockers by the NHS and had a double mastectomy now regret the irreversible damage done to them. I believe this is a new form of conversion therapy.
“Respected clinicians like those who left Tavistock have made clear they are fearful of giving honest clinical advice to a child because if they do not automatically affirm and medicalise a child’s new gender they will be labelled transphobic, so whatever Bill we do needs to address many of those issues and that is why we are going to publish a draft Bill.”
Ms Badenoch earlier told MPs that no child is born in the wrong body after former prime minister Liz Truss asked if the Government would back her Private Member’s Bill, which aims to ban biological men from single-sex spaces.
The South West Norfolk MP’s Bill is expected to be debated in the Commons on March 15.
Ms Truss told the Commons: “First of all, it will be clear that single-sex spaces and sex as defined in the Equality Act is on the basis of biological sex. Secondly, what it will do is protect the under-18s from undergoing hormone treatment for gender dysphoria. It will also make sure the state doesn’t formally recognise social transitioning for the under-18s.”
Ms Badenoch said she supports any effort to clarify the law, adding: “No child is born in the wrong body and no child should be put on a medical pathway towards irreversible medical transition.”
The minister also told MPs that her review into whether sex should be defined as “biological sex” in law was aimed at preventing predators from “exploiting the loopholes” in existing legislation.
Asked to clarify what her plans would mean, Ms Badenoch said: “It is not trans people that we are trying to limit. It is the predators who are using the loopholes and giving the trans community a bad name.
“So what we are trying to protect is the example I used before: male prisoners going into female prisons while claiming that they are female. We need to continue to provide clarity because many public authorities are confused; they don’t understand.”
Tom Hunt, Tory MP for Ipswich, meanwhile claimed a concept called the “gender-bread person” had appeared in a school in his constituency and “promoted the idea that biology didn’t matter”.
After describing it as “complete self-identification”, he claimed it promoted “outdated gender stereotypes”, adding: “Does she also agree with me that in primary schools we should be incredibly careful about promoting anything to do with gender ideology?”
Ms Badenoch said the issue is “one of the things I am seeking to resolve”.