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Dr Paul Behrens discusses conversion practices at the Scottish Parliament

Thu 15 December 2022

Windows of the Scottish Parliament building

On 13 December 2022, the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament discussed the report of the Expert Advisory Group on Ending Conversion Practices, of which Dr Paul Behrens, Reader in Law at Edinburgh Law School, was a member.

Conversion practices are efforts to change, suppress or eliminate a person's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression – very often, attempts to turn a homosexual person heterosexual or to make a transgender person cisgender. They have no scientific basis, and numerous medical association have warned of their harmful consequences. Their recipients are often children and young adults.

Dr Behrens was among three members of the Group, who, together with its chair, gave evidence to the Committee. In the hour long session, committee members asked questions about the human rights involved in legislation against conversion practices, the protection of transgender persons under the Recommendations which the Group issued and the feasibility of an effective support system for victims in the Scottish context.

Dr Behrens said: 'We must not lose sight of the realities of conversion practices. In the overwhelming number of cases, the victims of conversion practices are young people or children. It is not lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons who cause the problem here – they just want to be able to live their lives. The problem is caused by providers of conversion practices who interfere with established human rights, including the rights of children. It is for that reason that a law against conversion practices is strongly required.'

View the full session of the Committee