Victorian Government introduces ‘world class’ conversion therapy ban

The Victorian Government has today introduced a Bill to outlaw LGBTQ+ conversion practices, which is being described by advocates as world class legislation.

If passed, the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 will follow Queensland and the ACT in banning the harmful practices in the state, with some of the strongest protections in Australia.

“We’re sending a clear message: no one is ‘broken’ because of their sexuality or gender identity,” Victoria’s attorney general Jill Hennessy said.

“These views won’t be tolerated in Victoria and neither will these abhorrent practices.”

The new laws would see practitioners who attempt to change or suppress the sexuality or gender identity of a person face fines up to approximately $10,000 or up to 10 years behind bars, targeting both professional and informal practitioners.

LGBTQIA+ advocates have welcomed the legislation, as have conversion practice survivors, who were consulted on the Bill.

“This Bill sends a powerful message that LGBTQ+ people are whole and valid just as they are, and establishes powerful mechanisms to deal with incredibly harmful practices that LGBTQ+ people endure across Victoria,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.

“From consent based facilitation, investigation and enforcement action by the Equal Opportunity Commission, to criminal penalties for serious injury – this legislation provides a range of avenues to prevent harm and bring perpetrators to justice.”

Survivors can bring a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, which can also initiate its own investigation in serious and systemic cases and take enforcement action to prevent further harm.

Criminal offences outlined in the Bill will be based on existing criminal penalties for causing injury or serious injury.

Chris Csabs from Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts (SOGICE) Survivors says that “the main priority when it comes to legislation is to stop the harm from occurring. We believe that this Bill is a big step in that direction.”

Nathan Despott from survivor-led advocacy group Brave Network says that “the Victorian Bill is vastly better than any bill developed in Australia to date” and describes the legislation as a “powerful Bill”.

Anna Brown says “We hope that the Bill will have broad support in the Victorian Parliament and we see the passage of this world-leading legislation. While no law can fix a complex social problem on its own, this Bill is a great step towards ending the incredible harm caused by attempted LGBTQ+ conversion practices.”

“Of course there remains much more to do to ensure LGBTIQ+ people are protected from harm including removing broad exemptions that allow religious institutions to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people, and ensuring that intersex children are not subjected to unnecessary surgeries or medical treatment.”

Victoria’s peak body for LGBTQIA+ health, Thorne Harbour Health, has also welcomed the Bill.

“By passing this legislation, Victoria has a chance to lead the way globally in protecting the human rights of our sexually and gender diverse communities from incredibly harmful practices based
on false and misleading claims,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“Difference is not a defect. LGBTQA+ people are not ‘broken’ or ‘disordered’. It is vital that we stop so-called practitioners, whether in informal or formal settings, from performing practices that traumatise participants.”

Local spokesperson for national advocacy group just.equal, Brian Greig, also noted that WA Labor was on record as endorsing the ‘Victorian model’ if ever it moved to legislate against conversion practices.

In answer to a question from Greens MLC Alison Xamon in September this year, Labor’s Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health, Alanna Clohesy MLC, said the McGowan Government had “no plans” to ban conversion practices but was instead looking more to the national regulation of counsellors.

“That position is clearly unsustainable and without a time frame. The national momentum is now towards banning this insidious practice. As Queensland, the ACT and now Victoria have shown – what is urgently needed is specific state-based legislation to prohibit conversion practices locally.

“The better news is that Ms Clohesy also said that if the McGowan Government ever did consider legislation it would be ‘similar to that which has been suggested in Victoria.’

“As a community we now have the task of getting WA Labor to publicly commit to this reform and to adopt the Victorian Model if re-elected,” Greig said.

OIP Staff

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