Switzerland to become ‘refuge for gay healers’ if lawmakers don’t ban so-called conversion therapy

A participant at Pride in Zurich, Switzerland, holds a sign that reads "human rights are our rights"

LGBTQ+ advocates in Switzerland have warned that the country must ban conversion therapy, or risk becoming a “refuge for gay healers”.

On Monday (5 December), lawmakers in Switzerland will start debating a conversion therapy ban, according to AFP.

The Swiss government pledged a year ago to ban the debunked and traumatising practice, but with conversion therapy now criminalised in the neighbouring countries of France and Germany, the need has become even more pressing.

Following a ban coming into force in Germany, the ex-gay group Bruderschaft des Weges, which translates as “Brotherhood of the Way”, moved its operations to Switzerland to bypass the conversion therapy law.

National LGBTQ+ organisation Pink Cross said that because in both France and Germany “attempts at conversion are already banned, and initiatives to ban them throughout the European Union are under way… We absolutely have to prevent Switzerland from becoming a refuge for ‘gay healers’.”

The group has called for the “prohibition at the national level of all attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as the promotion of these attempts”.

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Further, Pink Cross wants to see “reinforced training of health, social and psychological professionals on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity to prevent attempts at conversion and promote an affirmative and supportive approach”, as well as “widespread awareness-raising on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in order to prevent rejection and discrimination, particularly within schools, religious communities and health institutions”.

If Switzerland is successful in banning conversion therapy, it will jump far ahead of the UK.

The UK’s Tory government first promised a ban on conversion therapy in 2018, but since then has produced a consultation document full of red flags, before scrapping a ban completely.

A ban was later put back on the table, but the government refused to include trans people in the proposed legislation. Since then, there has been little progress.

On Wednesday (30 November), during a Women and Equalities questions session, cross-party MPs urged the government to “bring forward a bill as soon as possible”.

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald told the house that 11 per cent of trans people had reported being subjected to conversion therapy in some form.

“Those individuals who are subjected to those practices are significantly more likely to have attempted suicide than their peers,” she said, adding that all that had been seen thus far was “more kicking into the long grass”.