Germany is considering legislation to ban conversion therapy for minors and restrict it for adults.
Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is gay, Monday released the draft of a bill to this effect, Deutsche Welle reports. It would ban use of the practice, designed to turn LGBTQ people straight or cisgender, on people under age 18. Adults could still undergo such therapy unless they were deceived, coerced, or threatened into doing so. And people ages 16 to 18 could undergo the therapy if they could show they understood its implications.
Being LGBTQ “is not a disease,” Spahn told German media outlets. “A ban also sends an important societal signal to all those who are struggling with their homosexuality: ‘You’re OK just as you are,’” he added.
Conversion therapy has been condemned as ineffective and harmful by every major U.S. health group and by many in other countries. Studies indicate it leads to depression and is associated with an increased risk of suicide. In the U.S., 18 states have barred licensed therapists from subjecting minors to the practice, as have many cities and counties.
If the German bill becomes law, therapists who violate it could be imprisoned for up to a year or have to pay a fine, according to Deutsche Welle. The draft did not specify the size of the fine.
Parliament will probably vote on the bill next year, but it hasn’t been scheduled for consideration yet, a spokesman for the Health Ministry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The proposal drew international praise. “Bans go a long way in changing the societal perceptions which drive the existence of ‘conversion therapy,’” Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, told Thomson Reuters. “They send a powerful message that LGBTIQ people are not in need of change or cure.”
But language about gender identity may need to be refined for the bill to pass, Petra Weitzel, an activist who helped draft it, told the news service. The legislation refers to “self-determined gender identity,” and conservative religious groups may argue “that something like self-determination and gender identity among minors doesn’t exist,” Weitzel said.
Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan all have nationwide bans on conversion therapy, according to OutRight. The U.K., Australia, and parts of Canada are considering such bans.