‘Harmful, deceptive and unethical’ conversion therapy finally banned in parts of Australia. Meanwhile, the UK twiddles its thumbs

Conversion therapy

Queensland has become the first Australian state to ban the torturous practice of conversion therapy after lawmakers voted on Thursday to make it illegal.

Under the new law, any Queensland therapists who use methods such as exorcism, hugging, behavioural management or marriage to “heal” LGBT+ people would face up to 12 months in prison, or 18 if the person is a minor.

It is the first law of its kind in Australia, targeting a practice that health minister Steven Miles called “harmful, deceptive and unethical”.

“No treatment or practice can change a person’s sexual attraction or experience of gender,” he said.

“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.

“Expert bodies around the world strongly oppose the use of conversion therapy. It’s time to send a clear message that it’s unacceptable. An ideology that treats LGBT+ people as broken or damaged has no place in our community.”

The state’s LNP Opposition voted against it, with shadow health minister Ros Bates complaining that it “would turn doctors into criminals”.

She also raised concern that the draft bill lacked clarity over practices relating to gender dysphoria, but Miles assured parliament that new amendments “removed any doubt” over “evidence-based and other clinically appropriate practices”.

He clarified that the bill outlaws any practices “based on the premise that being [LGBT+] or intersex is a defect or disorder”, so it wouldn’t effect anyone who provides actual support to those undergoing or considering a gender transition.

Meanwhile, despite years of fierce campaigning by LGBT+ activists, allies and anyone with commons sense, Boris Johnson admitted that there’s “no place” for “abhorrent” conversion therapy in the UK – but clarified that a ban would not be brought forward by the government until more research had been carried out.

The Tories first pledged to ban traumatising conversion therapy in July 2018.

Survivors say conversion therapy bill doesn’t go far enough.

Several conversion therapy survivors have said they are “extremely concerned” that Queensland’s legislation doesn’t go far enough as it only effects health professionals, who rarely offer conversion therapy.

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

“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.”

Greens MP Michael Berkman supported the bill but echoed these concerns.

“The bill focuses solely on health practitioners, failing to address the fact the bulk of conversion therapy is most likely occurring in informal and religious settings,” QNews reported him saying.

“The ban on this type of therapy should be extended to religious institutions. Funding for specialised support for survivors should also be prioritised.”

Separate legislation to “modernise and strengthen” Queensland’s sexual consent laws is also set to be introduced to Parliament this week.