Queensland has become the first state in Australia to ban conversion therapy practices by healthcare practitioners that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The conversion therapy ban was part of the Health Legislation Amendment Bill that passed through the Queensland state parliament on Thursday.
Registered health practitioners, including doctors, nurses and psychologists, and unregistered health practitioners such as counsellors, naturopaths, and social workers, can now face up to 12 months in prison for attempting to use conversion therapy practices on an individual. Or 18 months if that person is a minor.
The bill was passed in the Queensland parliament by 47 votes to 41, with the Liberal National Party voting against the provisions banning conversion therapy practices. Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates said it “would turn doctors into criminals”.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles, who introduced the bill to parliament, said being LGBTIQ is not affliction or disease that requires medical treatment.
“No treatment or practice can change a person’s sexual attraction or experience of gender,” he said.
“Survivors of conversion therapy report experiencing deep feelings of shame, alienation and hopelessness. [These] often result in symptoms of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.
“Expert bodies around the world strongly oppose the use of conversion therapy. It’s time to send a clear message that it’s unacceptable.
“An ideology that treats LGBTIQ people as broken or damaged has no place in our community.”
Conversion therapy practices are not evidence based and have been discredited by the medical community. The Australian Psychological Association, Australian Medical Association and World Health Organisation formally oppose conversion therapy and acknowledge that it is harmful and unethical.
The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims considers conversion therapy to be torture and that it “causes severe physical and psychological suffering to its victims.”
While the conversion therapy ban in formal healthcare settings is a start, survivor groups are concerned the bill does not go far enough because it doesn’t cover conversion practices in religious or other settings.
“From the perspective and the survivors we are really really concerned because the bill only covers conversion practices in health services,” Chris Csabs of SOGICE Survivors told Star Observer.
“The concern is that a vast majority of survivors have gone through conversion practices in a religious or informal setting,” Csabs said.
In other parts of Australia, the ACT has just introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy for minors, while the Victorian government has committed to prohibiting conversion therapy practices and has began public consultation.