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Finchley and Golders Green MP calls for ‘gay cure’ evidence to be shown to Parliament

PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 January 2016

Mike Freer. Picture: Susannah Ireland.

Mike Freer. Picture: Susannah Ireland.

Susannah Ireland

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer is backing a call for evidence on gay conversion therapies to be presented to the government following a Westminster Hall debate in November.

Mr Freer will join forces with gay rights organisation Stonewall, Pink News and Buzz Feed in a campaign to have the controversial practice of “gay cures” banned in the UK.

The MP, who is gay and married, introduced the Westminster debate last year, and said he was aware of people being referred for aversion therapy on the NHS in order to “cure” them of their homosexuality.

Mr Freer said: “It is simply abhorrent that in Britain today being gay is still regarded as something which can be medically cured.

“I welcome the collaborative effort on behalf of the LGBT media and campaign organisation Stonewall, to advance the campaign to ban gay conversion therapy in the UK.

“I hope those who have personal experiences of undergoing so-called gay cures will be courageous and come forward and share their stories.”

Mr Freer said he is aware of aversion therapies where people are given drugs to induce nausea and woken up every two hours, with imagery of same sex activity shown to them so they associated this with sickness.

He said he has also heard stories of electric shock therapy being used in this country as part of aversion therapy.

He said: “People might associate these therapies with a bygone age or with evangelical America, but it’s still happening in the UK, and sometimes through referral by the NHS.”

At the time of the debate, public health minister Jane Ellison said the government had “no current plans” to ban or restrict the therapies with legislation.

But Mr Freer believes the current voluntary code of practice for healthcare professionals is insufficient.

He said: “We regulate dentists, but we have no statutory regulation for psychotherapists.”

The data gathered by Stonewall will be presented to the Department of Health as hard evidence of real life experiences of how the current law fails to safeguard vulnerable members of the LGBT community.

The evidence will also be used to lobby those health care bodies and organisations who are not already signatories to sign up to an informal code of conduct on gay conversion therapy, set to be published in February 2016.

Research done by Stonewall in 2014 found that 1 in 10 health and social care staff have witnessed colleagues express a belief that sexual orientation can be ‘cured’, rising to 1 in 5 among health and care staff in London.

A 2009 survey of over 1,300 accredited mental health professionals found that more than 200 had offered some form of conversion therapy, with 35 per cent of patients referred to them for treatment by GPs and 40 per cent treated inside an NHS practice.

Speaking to the Ham&High in December, Mr Freer said he realised he had a duty to help with equality campaigning in the UK.

He said: “I never wanted to be a gay rights MP. I wanted to be a good MP. But you realise that you have a legitimate platform you can use to further certain causes that may be close to your heart.”

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