Nine European countries that consider conversion therapy
Joe-Lize Brugge, CNE.news
Should people be allowed to attempt to change the sexual orientation of others? And if not, should homosexuals still be able to choose so-called conversion therapy voluntarily? These questions are currently debated in at least nine European countries.
The nine states that consider conversion therapy can be divided into three categories: countries where the ban is already implemented, those where the bill is still in Parliament and nations that are still considering the possibility of a ban.
Germany implemented a ban on conversion therapy in 2020. Since then, "medical interventions aimed at deliberately changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or self-perceived gender identity of a person, and the advertisement of such therapies" are forbidden and can be punished with a prison sentence of up to a year or a fine, the government website reads. The ban on conversion therapy is not included in the German criminal code but became a separate law.
The conversion ban in Germany forbids conversion treatments for minors since 2020. In 2021, the law was amended. A prohibition was added for therapy for adults who have not given consent or have not been well informed about the consequences of the treatment.
In France, conversion therapy is officially a crime. A committee from both houses of the French Parliament accepted the draft ban in December 2021.
The French law defines conversion therapy as a "psychiatric practice claiming to cure a person's sexual orientation by imposing heterosexuality or encouraging abstinence."
Anyone who violates the conversion ban can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to two years or a fine of 30,000 euros. If the victim of the therapy is a minor or other circumstances play a role, the penalty can be increased to 45,000 euros, CNE.news reported.
Bill in Parliament
The Austrian authorities are also working on a draft law that criminalises conversion therapy. Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) said in February that she wanted to enforce the ban before summer, GGG reports. However, she now change this aim to "soon", as reported by Orf.at.
In 2019, the Austrian Parliament voted unanimously for a partial ban on conversion therapy. However, since then, no legislation has been passed on the issue.
Last June, the Spanish Council of Ministers passed a transgender law forbidding conversion therapy. That was reported earlier by CNE.news. The new Transgender law is currently being discussed in the Congress of Deputies, the Spanish lower house.
Also, the autonomous region of Asturia is in the process of forbidding any procedure aimed at changing one's sexual orientation, according to Europapress.
The Norwegian authorities have been considering the possibility of banning conversion therapies since July 2021. Soon, the bill will be submitted to the Storting after the results of the civilian consultation have become clear.
The bill proposes an absolute ban on conversion therapy for children under 16. This age may go up to 18. Furthermore, advertising conversion therapies would be forbidden. On the other hand, adults will still be able to choose voluntarily to undergo conversion therapy as long as they are informed correctly, CNE.news wrote.
The Norwegian government admitted in 2021 that there is no exact definition of conversion therapy. That might make it hard to "determine where the boundaries are between what is allowed and what is not." Christians have protested the bill, fearing that it would violate their religious freedom. However, conversations about one's sexual orientation will not be criminalised, the Norwegian Minister for Culture and Equality recently promised to Dagen.
In Sweden, the authorities are investigating whether a ban on conversion therapy is feasible.
Ulrika Westerlund, in charge of the investigation, was the Swedish government investigator for better living conditions and called herself an activist, CNE.news writes. In an interview with the Swedish magazine Syre, she warned against the "anti-gender movement" emerging in Europe.
The previous Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, Morgan Johansson justified the investigation by saying that "all people should have the right to shape their lives in a way that suits them", the Swedish government stated on its website.
This month, the Swedish authorities launched a proposal to forbid taking children on trips to undergo conversion therapy, Dagen reported. The ban applies to activities that have a "tangible risk that a child's health and development is damaged during a stay abroad", the authorities state. This proposal, too, is currently in the stage of civilian consultation.
The Dutch Cabinet disapproved of conversion practices, but did not want to enforce a ban. That was reported by the Dutch broadcaster NOS last summer.
The Cabinet will support a ban on conversion therapy but does not take the initiative to draft a bill to that end. It leaves that decision to the Lower House.
Several liberal and socialist parties are currently working on a private members draft law, which they already announced last year. At the moment, the Council of State, an advisory body, is considering it before it is passed on to the Senate and the Lower House.
The Dutch ministers of Justice and of Education, Culture and Science promised to look critically at the law's feasibility and enforceability and also take into account fundamental rights, such as freedom of religion and education.
The debate on conversion therapy has been around for several years in the Netherlands. In 2019, the Lower House attempted to implement a ban, CNE.news reported. However, at the time, the Cabinet wanted to do more research first.
The Swiss debate on conversion therapy is still ongoing. In August, the Legal Commission of the National Council announced their support for a ban on conversion therapy for minors. Now, the initiative is up to the Federal Council, which has to write a draft law, Srf writes.
Currently, there is no national ban on conversion therapy in Switzerland. Although several individual cantons are in the process of dealing with motions that want to forbid the practice, the National Council thinks that uniform legislation in the country would be better.
If it is up to the National Council (the Lower House in Switzerland), all measures aimed at changing or suppressing sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression will become illegal, Blick reports. In addition, offering such therapies and advertising them should be prohibited. Only medical measures for gender reassignment and treatments for sexual preferences, such as paedophilia, will be exempted from the ban.
If the Federal Council writes a proposal, it has to go through both chambers of Parliament and be reviewed by the Federal Council, among other steps.
Polish politicians unsuccessfully attempted to pass a ban on conversion therapy in 2019. At the time, the liberal Nowoczesna party submitted a proposal to forbid using, offering, promoting or advertising conversion practices, Kph writes. However, there was no real support for the draft, and it got lost after the next elections, a European report reads.
Instead, the current Polish government is criticised for limiting LGBT rights, for example, when it introduced the so-called LGBT-free zones.
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