Victorian government unveils legislation to ban ‘conversion therapy’


daniel andrews victorian government conversion therapy
Photos: ABC News/Jordan Hirst

Survivors of so-called “conversion therapy” have praised the Victorian Government’s proposed legislation to criminalise the harmful practices.

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill would outlaw practices seeking to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in Victoria.

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Under the proposed laws, those who subject others to such practices that cause injury or serious injury would face up to 10 years jail.

Anyone advertising the practices would also incur a criminal penalty and a maximum fine of nearly $10,000.

Those who try to get around the new laws by sending people for conversion practices outside of Victoria could face up to two years jail.

Under the laws, survivors can bring a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

The commission can also start investigations in serious and systemic cases and take enforcement action to stop harm.

A civil response scheme established within the commission will also support survivors and address the harm they’ve suffered.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy will introduce the draft legislation to the state parliament on Wednesday.

She slammed the harmful practices as “cruel and bigoted quackery”. She said the laws send a clear message the practices have “no place” in Victoria.

“No one is ‘broken’ because of their sexuality or gender identity,” Hennessy said.

“These views won’t be tolerated in Victoria and neither will these abhorrent practices.”

Hennessy said practitioners had told Victorian survivors to “pray the gay away”, starved them and tortured them. She said in some cases, they’d committed what she considered “forms of criminal assault.”

Survivors of ‘conversion therapy’ welcome Victoria bill

Survivor groups have applauded the draft bill and thanked the Victorian government for consulting with them.

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Nathan Despott from survivors group Brave Network said the bill is “vastly better” than the bills introduced in other states.

“LGBTQA+ people should be able to live freely, practice their faith, and participate in community life without being treated as though their sexual orientation or gender identity is a disorder,” he said.

“This legislation finally acknowledges that conversion practices and the false and misleading claims that underpin them are harmful and unscientific.”

In 2018, survivor Chris Csabs bravely went public with his experiences of “conversion therapy” from age 16.

Csabs underwent the practices for years in his church to change his homosexuality, leaving him depressed and suicidal.

“The main priority when it comes to legislation is to stop the harm from occurring,” Csabs said on Wednesday.

“We believe that [the Victorian legislation] is a big step in that direction.”

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said the “world-leading” legislation establishes “powerful mechanisms” to deal with the practices.

“From consent-based facilitation, investigation and enforcement action, to criminal penalties for serious injury – this legislation provides a range of avenues to prevent harm and bring perpetrators to justice,” she said.

“While no law can fix a complex social problem on its own, this Bill is a great step towards ending the incredible harm caused by attempted LGBTQ+ conversion practices.”

Victorian legislation will go to a vote in 2021

The Victorian government will introduce the legislation to parliament on Wednesday. A vote on the Bill is not likely until next year.

In August, Queensland became the first state to criminalise conversion practices. The ACT also passed a ban later that month.

However, survivors criticised the Queensland laws, which only covered health providers and failed to capture informal conversion practices outside of healthcare settings.

If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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