Queensland Is First Australian State To Criminalise Gay Conversion Therapy
Queensland has become the first state in Australia to criminalise gay conversion therapy, with state politicians deeming it ‘highly destructive and unethical’.
The controversial and highly dangerous practice involves the use of psychotherapy or any other type of treatment in a bid to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Often, a variety of shaming, traumatic and painful methods are used.
Although it might seem like such a practice should be illegal in most countries already, as it’s premised on the false and homophobic notion that being LGBTQ+ is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’, this isn’t the case. In fact, even here in the UK it’s still allowed.
And while there’s still a huge way to go in most places, Queensland made a concrete step for the LGBTQ+ community on Thursday, August 13, with state politicians voting to make the practice illegal.
Under the Health Legislation Amendment Bill, healthcare professionals could face up to 18 months in jail for attempting to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity using such practices, depending on the age of the individual.
‘Being LGBTIQ is not an affliction or disease that requires medical treatment,’ Queensland’s deputy premier and health minister Steven Miles said in parliament, as per The Independent. ‘No treatment or practice can change a person’s sexual attraction or experience of gender.’
A number of practices that aim to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity – including aversion therapy, psychoanalysis and hypnotherapy, clinical interventions, counselling or group activities – have been made illegal under the new law.
Peter Black, the President of the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health, told Reuters the ban ‘sends a clear message to Queenslanders that conversion therapy is harmful in all contexts’.
It is important that there are penalties for this dangerous and discredited practice. There continues to be a need for education and further research on the harms of conversion therapies, as well as support for survivors of conversion therapies.
But while Miles deemed the practice ‘highly destructive and unethical’, the bill was only passed 47-41 with the support of the Queensland Greens and Queensland Labour.
The Liberal National Party of Queensland (LNP), Bob Katter’s Australia Party and One Nation voted against the ban, with the LNP claiming the law would ‘turn doctors into criminals’, as per news.com.au.
Others warned Queensland’s legislation may not be able to tackle the scale of the problem, with SOGICE Survivors and Brave Network saying in a joint statement they were ‘extremely concerned’ about the ability of the legislation to prevent the harm currently seen among recent survivors.
The two organisations stressed that 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’.
They added that the bulk of harm ‘overwhelmingly’ occurs over time in ‘informal settings’, not in therapeutic contexts.
So while of course this is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s vital more needs to be done to ensure this harmful practice is banned once and for all.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]