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Expert Advisory Group presents report on ending conversion practices in Scotland

Wed 12 October 2022

Aerial view of St Andrew's House in Edinburgh

On 4 Oct 2022, the report of the Expert Advisory Group to the Scottish Government on Ending Conversion Practices was published. 'Conversion Practices' is a term that describes efforts to suppress or eliminate a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or expression of sexual identity. These practices have been condemned by numerous medical organisations as lacking a scientific basis and potentially causing great harm. An increasing number of States therefore criminalise the relevant acts.

Dr Paul Behrens of the Edinburgh Law School, who is a member of the Expert Advisory Group, said: 'This report is a milestone on the path towards ending conversion practices in Scotland. It was fascinating to be involved in these debates, and it was an honour to be invited to be part of this Group'.

The Expert Advisory Group first met in March 2022 and finished its work in September of that year. It heard from specialists in various fields, including academia, law, medicine and religion, as well as survivors of conversion practices. The resulting report contains Recommendations to the Scottish Government which extend to human rights considerations, definitions and criminalisation, but also to a large range of measures under civil law. In particular, the Group recommends giving several functions to a Commission or other authorised bodies to achieve an end to conversion practices in Scotland. They include the provision of education, of support to the victims, but also the task of investigating allegations of conversion practices. The Recommendations are accompanied by 32 Guiding Principles, which provide further explanation on the individual points.

Dr Behrens said: 'The debates over the last months explored many important aspects of conversion practices, and it was humbling to hear testimony from the survivors of such acts. It is encouraging that so many faith communities and medical organisations support ending conversion practices and that, in Scotland, all parties represented in Holyrood have declared their support for this aim.'