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Stephen Fry backs petition urging government to 'stop dithering' and ban gay 'conversion' therapy

2021-02-09

Stephen Fry has backed a petition urging the government to 'stop dithering' and ban gay 'conversion' therapy in the UK.

The It's a Sin star, 63, has joined human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in calling on the British government to "honour its pledge" to outlaw the harmful practice, which seeks to change someone's sexuality through 'counseling'. 

The Peter Tatchell Foundation’s ‘Stop Dithering’ petition will be presented to prime minister Bris Johnson at 10 Downing Street.

In a statement, Fry said: "Please support the Stop Dithering campaign. Any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is unethical."

The actor and author - who was honoured with an Icon Award at the 2020 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar last December - added: "I urge you to sign this petition and call on the UK government to act swiftly to honour its pledge to make this cruel, contemptuous and harmful practice illegal."

Photography: Markus Bidaux

Fry's statement comes almost seven months after Boris Johnson announced that the government would first launch a study into the prevalence of gay 'conversion' therapy in the UK before bringing forward plans to ban the "abhorrent" practice.

Johnson said at the time that gay 'conversion' therapy has "no place in a civilised society, and has no place in this country".

Peter Tatchell, whose human rights foundation masterminded the 'Stop Dithering' campaign, said: "These therapies are immoral, ineffective and damaging. No one should be told their sexual orientation or gender identity is something that is flawed and requires changing.

 
 
 
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"The practice is based on the bigoted assumption that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans is a defect or illness that can be ‘cured’."

The veteran activist continues: LGBT+ conversion treatments are damaging and discredited. They have been condemned by all major UK medical, psychological and counselling organisations. Attempts to shame or pressure a person into denying a core part of who they are can have a devastating impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

"The government has said this is a complex issue but Germany and states in the US and Australia have managed to ban it. While Boris Johnson and [Minister for Women and Equalities] Liz Truss procrastinate, people continue to suffer as a result of this quack practice, which has been linked to anxiety, depression and self-harm.

"Only last week, the Australian state of Victoria showed that it can done. Its Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill also gives investigative powers to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. This is a model for the UK to emulate."

Laws regulating gay 'conversion' therapy vary widely around the world, with the practise proving difficult to regulate: many countries have banned the practice being employed on children or by medical professionals, but stamping out voluntary adult 'conversion' therapy conducted by non-regulated organisations such as religious groups has proved harder to do.

Among the jurisdictions with notable bans on gay 'conversion' therapy: 20 US states ban the practice for minors; Brazil, which in 1999 became the first country in the world to introduce a nationwide ban; and Germany, which last year became the first European country to introduce legislation banning the practice for both minors and for adults subjected to "force, fraud or pressure."