It’s about time— Germany has finally passed legislation that bans the practice of “gay conversion therapy” for youth nationwide.
The new law was passed Thursday. It bars organizations from offering a service that can supposedly change a person’s sexual orientation to minors. Breaking this law comes with a hefty fine up to €30,000, or 32,535 USD.
Researchers have found that attempting to change or suppress sexual orientation and gender identity can lead to depression and even suicide.
Specifically, under the new legislation, minors are not permitted to take part in medical or psychological practices aimed at sexual orientation modification. Parents can also be punished for threatening or coercing their children into a regimen that resembles “gay conversion therapy.”
The so-called therapy can include hypnosis and electric shock therapy and lacks scientific basis for any kind of viability.
According to German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is gay himself, the law is meant to protect young Germans as most people who’d taken part in the therapy were minors who’d been forced or otherwise coerced by others to change their sexual orientation.
“Young people are being forced into conversion therapies,” he said, “and so it is very important that they should find support in the existence of this law: a clear signal that the state does not want this to happen,” said Spahn.
“They should feel strengthened when the state, when society, when Parliament makes it clear: We do not want that in this country,” Spahn said, according to the BBC.
Spahn announced plans for the ban in June. The bill was drafted in November, and German chancellor Angela Merkel backed the ban in December.
“The government’s goal is to protect people’s right to sexual self-determination,” spokesman for Merkel’s office, Steffen Seibert, said.
According to LGBTQ advocacy group OutRight Action International, Germany is now the fifth country in the world to ban conversion therapy, following Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan.
“So-called conversion therapy efforts are based on the belief that cis-gender heterosexuality is the norm, and transgender identities and same-sex attraction not only fall outside the norm, but have to be changed, if need be by brutal, inhuman force,” Executive Director Jessica Stern said in a statement. “The German Bundestag took an incredibly important step today— by banning ‘conversion therapy’ it sent a powerful message that LGBTIQ people are not in need of change or cure.”
Twenty U.S. states, along with Washington DC and Puerto Rico, have laws and regulations that protect youth from practices related to conversion therapy.