The small nation of Malta may become the first in Europe to ban so-called ex-gay or conversion therapy.
Helena Dalli, Malta’s minister for social dialogue, consumer affairs, and civil liberties presented the Towards the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act for its first reading in Parliament Tuesday, beginning a monthlong period of public comment on the bill, the U.K.’s Pink News reports.
The legislation would bar therapists from subjecting any “vulnerable person” to the practice, with “vulnerable person” defined as someone who is under age 18, who has a physical or mental disability, or who is otherwise judged by a court to be particularly at risk. It would also make it illegal to force or coerce anyone to undergo such therapy, to advertise it, or to make referrals for it.
The public comment website includes the bill text and a place for comment submission, and it lays out the arguments for the measure. “The international community of professionals in education, social work, health, mental health and counselling has determined that there is no evidence towards the validity or effectiveness of so called conversion therapy,” it reads in part. “On the contrary, it is dangerous to the individual’s mental and physical health, in some cases leading to suicide.”
In the U.S., California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, the District of Columbia, and, just this month, the city of Cincinnati have prohibited the use of conversion therapy on minors. Federal legislation has been introduced that would classify it as a form of consumer fraud. President Obama and other officials in his administration have condemned such therapy as well.
Malta, an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Africa, was ranked this year as the best European country for LGBT people by the International Gay and Lesbian Association, knocking the U.K. out of the number 1 spot. Among other advances, earlier this year Malta banned surgery to change intersex infants’ genitalia; any such surgery must wait until the individual is old enough to consent.