Queensland has become Australia’s first state to ban gay conversion therapy, a controversial practice aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Doctors, counsellors and psychologists could now face up to 18 months in prison in the state if found guilty of using aversion therapy, hypnotherapy or psychoanalysis.
Some undergo a host of bizarre and extreme practices in the hopes of changing sexual orientation, including exorcism, hugging and even electric shock therapy.
‘Behavioural management’ is also used, as is giving patients nausea-inducing drugs while showing them a picture of someone of the same sex.
Some practitioners also use counselling or ‘repression techniques’ to encourage a person to keep their feelings about sex or identity private.
The Health Legislation Amendment Bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland on Thursday, with 47 to 41 votes.
State Health Minister Steven Miles told parliament being LGBTIQ did not require medical treatment, as it was not an affliction or disease.
He said conversion therapy was ‘highly destructive and unethical’.
‘No treatment or practice can change a person’s sexual attraction or experience of gender,’ Mr Miles said, SBS reported.
He has previously called practice ‘immoral’ and said it has ‘long been discredited by the medical sector’, in November 2019.
‘I strongly oppose any suggestion that being LGBTIQ is a disorder that requires medical treatment,’ he said at the time.
‘This is an appalling practice that has no place in modern society, let alone Queensland’s health system.
‘It does nothing but cause harm and devastation to vulnerable members of the community who need and deserve our support and respect.’
Queensland Council LGBTI Health president Peter Black said the ban sent a clear message to Queenslanders conversion therapy was ‘harmful in all contexts’.
‘People should be nurtured and protected so they can live and love without fear of abuse, ridicule or exclusion,’ he said in November.
He said having ‘penalties for this dangerous and discredited practice’ was important.
‘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,’ he said.
Queensland’s decision follows Israel taking a step toward implementing an outright ban in July and several countries – including Malta, Brazil and Germany – partially or fully outlawing gay conversion therapy.
ACT has committed to banning conversion therapy for minors by introducing a bill on Thursday, and the Victorian government beginning public consultation on similar legislation in October 2019.
But SOGICE Survivors and Brave Network, two advocacy groups led by conversion survivor self-advocates, said they were ‘extremely concerned’ about the ability of the Queensland government’s legislation ‘to prevent the harm currently seen among recent survivors’.
‘Overwhelmingly, the bulk of harm occurs over time in informal settings (such as pastoral care in faith communities), and not in therapeutic contexts,’ the statement read.
‘This harm is driven by false and misleading claims made to people over a long period of time. Because of this, legislation aimed solely at health service providers using “therapy” is not going to solve the problem.
‘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.’
The La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre found conversion therapy ‘pervasive’ in Australian faith communities in a report in 2018.
It included at least ten Australian and New Zealand organisations offering the practice.