The German parliament has passed a law banning the harmful practice of conversion therapy, which falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Under the new law, conversion therapy is banned for those under the age of 18, as well as for adults who are forcibly subjected to it, PinkNews reports.
Conversion therapy, which can take the form of talk therapy or more extreme measures such as aversion and electroshock therapy, has been debunked by the American Medical Association and declared ineffective by a number of prominent former conversion therapy — or “ex-gay” — advocates.
“Homosexuality is not a disease,” said Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is gay. “That’s why the very term therapy is misleading.”
Germany’s ban carries penalties of up to one year in prison for those who carry out conversion therapy. It also bans all advertising for the practice.
OutRight Action International, which advocates for the rights of LGBTQ people across the globe, praised German lawmakers for enacting the ban, noting that conversion therapy can involve “brutal, inhuman force.”
Executive Director Jessica Stern said in a statement that the German parliament had “sent a powerful message that LGBTIQ people are not in need of change or cure.
“At the same time, demand for ‘conversion therapy’ will only decrease if acceptance of LGBTIQ people grows,” Stern said. “I urge authorities in Germany to bolster the legal ban on ‘conversion therapy’ with measures designed to promote understanding and inclusion of LGBTIQ people, thus tackling the root causes of these harmful, inhuman practices.”
While some critics argued that the ban does not go far enough in protecting all LGBTQ people from conversion therapy, Spahn said that it was limited to LGBTQ youth and those who are forcibly subjected to the practice in order to be able to defend the law in court, Reuters reports.
“I want a ban which will be robust, including if it’s brought before the courts,” Spahn said.
He added: “Young people are being forced into conversion therapies, and so it is very important that they should find support in the existence of this law: a clear signal that the state does not want this to happen.”
Born Perfect, a National Center for Lesbian Rights campaign led by survivors of conversion therapy, praised Germany for banning the practice.
“Germany is the first major European country to protect LGBTQ people from this insidious practice, which is one of the primary drivers of suicide and depression among LGBTQ youth,” Mathew Shurka, co-founder of Born Perfect, said in a statement. “Especially during this time, when many LGBTQ people are feeling more isolated and alone than ever, Germany’s leadership is a powerful example of how governments can stand up for LGBTQ youth.”
Shannon Minter, executive director of NCLR, called Germany’s leadership on the issue “groundbreaking,” and said the country was “setting a new international standard for protecting LGBTQ youth and for recognizing conversion therapy for what it is — a public health crisis that is devastating the lives of LGBTQ young people.”
The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention service for LGBTQ youth, similarly praised Germany for implementing a ban on conversion therapy.
Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government at The Trevor Project, noted that research in the United States has shown that young people subjected to conversion therapy are at increased risk of “suicidal ideation and other negative mental health outcomes.”
“Germany’s bold action will save lives and send a message to LGBTQ young people around the world that they deserve love, respect, and support,” Brinton said in a statement.
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