Call for Sheffield to become first 'conversion therapy free city'

An equality and human rights campaigner has urged Sheffield Council to take a strong stance against conversion therapy following a rise in cases.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 1:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 1:27 pm
Director of Equalities and Human Rights UK Chrissy Meleady

Chrissy Meleady, chief executive of Equalities and Human Rights UK, asked the council to pass a “long overdue and urgently needed” motion on this during a full council meeting next week in order to make it known to all who participate or condone conversion therapy that it is abhorrent and unacceptable.

The dangerous practices – which falsely claim to change sexual orientation, gender identities or gender expression – have taken place for a long time and can have severe consequences including self harm and suicide.

Ms Meleady said younger people between aged from 16 upwards are most vulnerable and there are thought to be hundreds of sufferers in Sheffield with cases rising in recent years.

She said: “Sheffield, like every other city and town in the UK should understand the terrible impact that conversion therapy has on individuals. Sheffield should unreservedly condemn this practice.

“As a city, Sheffield should be unequivocal that conversion therapy, in which the aim is to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress gender identity, is unethical, degrading, and harmful and that it has no place in our city or nation.

“Sheffield has a long honourable history of celebrating and valuing diversity and embracing as a Sheffield family all members, whilst striving to be a place where people feel comfortable and accepted and cherished for who they are.

“As a city, there is a long held belief too that society is richer when it is inclusive.

“Conversion therapies in all their guises have no place in Sheffield.

“Sheffield City Council has a clear choice — to side with the perpetrators of conversion therapy or to protect vulnerable victims.”

Last year, Matthew Drapper spoke out about the “absurd” exorcism he suffered at a Sheffield church that left him feeling “empty and lost” for months.

He explained how he “floated, disembodied” above his own “shaking body” and was told to shout “I break the power of homosexuality over me” and “I cancel the agreement with the kingdom of darkness – any associated demons go in the name of Jesus”.

Ms Meleady said there are many others who are suffering similar in the city.

She said after contacting the council, Sheffield Labour is considering tabling a motion at next week’s full council meeting. She also urged the council to make strong representation to the government to act.

In 2018, Theresa May’s government promised to put an end to the practices but did not follow through on this.

Now years later, in the latest Queen’s Speech the government announced a consultation will be held in England and Wales before the law changes.

This will explore how to ensure the ban does not have “unintended consequences”, and that medical professionals, religious leaders, teachers and parents can keep having “open and honest conversations”.

The government said it will provide additional financial support to ensure victims of conversion therapy get the help they need.

Sheffield Labour and Sheffield Council were contacted for comment.