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Australian state becomes the first in the country to ban conversion therapy

The practice meant to change or suppress one’s sexual orientation often involves electric-shock therapy or prayer. 

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Queensland, the second largest state in Australia, has become the first Australian state to ban the detrimental practice of conversion therapy, just weeks after South Australia announced its plans to ban the practice “as soon as possible.”

Conversion therapy refers to any attempt to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, often involving techniques such as electric-shock therapy or prayer. 

These practices are not evidence-based and have been formally opposed and discredited by the medical community, including the Australian Psychological Association, Australian Medical Association and World Health Organization

Conversion therapy is also considered to be torture by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. They say it causes “severe physical and psychological suffering to its victims.” 

Under the new law, doctors, counselors and psychologists who perform conversion therapy through hypnotherapy, electric-shock therapy, aversion therapy or psychoanalysis, will face 12 years in prison. Practitioners will face 18 years in prison if the victim is a minor. 

“No treatment or practice can change a person’s sexual attraction or experience of gender. Being LGBTQ is not an affliction or disease that requires medical treatment,” said Steven Miles, the Deputy Premier of Queensland, and Health and Ambulance Minister. 

“Survivors of conversion therapy report experiencing deep feelings of shame, alienation and hopelessness. [These] often result in symptoms of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide,” Miles added. 

“The ban sends a clear message to Queenslanders that conversion therapy is harmful in all contexts and that people should be nurtured and protected so they can live and love without fear of abuse, ridicule and exclusion,” Peter Black, president of the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health told the Thomas Reuters Foundation

Black also said that it is still essential for people to be educated about the harmful effects of these therapies and more support needs to be provided to survivors. 

Although the law is a step in the right direction, some survivors are worried about its limitations, as conversion therapy does not exclusively take place in healthcare settings. 

“Overwhelmingly, the bulk of harm occurs over time in informal settings, not in therapeutic contexts,” advocacy groups SOGICE Survivors and Brave Network said in a joint statement. 

“Health professionals are only very rarely involved in conversion practices in 2020, and therefore must not be the sole focus of any legislation or response,” the statement continued. 

“Religious or spiritual practices, such as praying for a person to change their sexual orientation, are not prohibited by the Bill,” it states.

Greens MP, Michael Berkman, believes the bill should go further. 

“The ban on this type of therapy should be extended to religious institutions. Funding for specialized support for survivors should also be prioritized,” he told Q News

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Victoria have also committed themselves to banning the harmful practice. The ACT introduced a bill to outlaw conversion therapy for minors on Thursday, Aug. 13. 

Last February, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews denounced conversion therapy as “bigoted quackery” that “perpetuates the idea that LGBTI people are in some way broken.” 

Chris Csbas, of SOGICE Survivors hopes that other states will pass much broader laws to provide more protection. 

“We’re very hopeful that they will actually adopt the recommendations by survivors groups rather than just passing something really quickly,” he said. 


 

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