Practitioners who break the ban face 12 months in prison, 18 months if they were performing it on a minor.
Queensland, the second largest state in Australia, has banned the harmful practice of ‘conversion therapy.’ The news comes just weeks after another Australian state, South Australia, announced it was aiming to ban the discredited practice “as soon as possible.”
Under the law, which was passed on Thursday (13 August), practitioners of ‘conversion therapy’ using methods like electroshock, drug and hypnotherapies face going to prison for 12 months, this will be extended to 18 months if they were being performed on a minor.
The practice – which has been discredited by the NHS and the World Psychiatric Association – refers to any attempt at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and often involves techniques like electroshock therapy or prayer.
Steven Miles, the Deputy Premier of Queensland, and Health and Ambulance Services Minister, said: “No treatment or practice can change a person’s sexual attraction or experience of gender.
“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 LGBT+ people as broken or damaged has no place in our community.”
However, survivors of the discredited practice fear that the bill doesn’t go far enough. Speaking to SBS, Chris Csabs, of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group SOGICE Survivors, said: “The vast majority of survivors currently come from conversion practices that are done in informal spaces, like in religious groups or pastoral care.
“The Queensland legislation focuses on the health stuff rather than anything else, so it’s actually missing the vast majority of survivors and it’s not actually very protective at all.”
A Green MP, Michael Berkman, who voted for the bill, echoed similar worries, saying: “The bill focuses solely on health practitioners, failing to address the fact the bulk of conversion therapy is most likely occurring in informal and religious settings.
“The ban on this type of therapy should be extended to religious institutions. Funding for specialised support for survivors should also be prioritised.”
The bill was opposed by the opposition party, the Liberal National Party, whose Shadow Health and Ambulance Services Minister, Ros Bates, said it “would turn doctors into criminals.”
Queensland’s ban came weeks after opposition parties in South Australia announced that they were planning to introduce legislation to ban the discredited practice “as soon as possible.”
The proposed bill would amend the Criminal Law Consolidation Act and the Health and Community Services Complaints Act, and be enforced by the South Australian police force and Health Complaints Commissioner.
The punishments would be similar to laws that ban recklessly causing harm, which carry a maximum sentence of eight years in prison. More serious penalties would be given to people attempting the practice on children and vulnerable adults, although gender transition services for trans people would be exempted.
The proposed legislation already has the support of the Australian Green Party, and the state’s Attorney General and Deputy Premier, Vickie Chapman, has considered how the ban would work as a criminal offence.