The bill is being drafted by opposition Labor politicians.
Opposition politicians in South Australia are aiming to bring in a bill “as soon as possible” to ban the discredited practice of ‘conversion therapy’ in the state of South Australia. ‘Conversion therapy’ has already been banned in the Australian state of Victoria, and other bills are being debated in the Queensland and Australian Capital Territory states.
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.
Speaking to InDaily, Shadow Human Services Minister, Nat Cook, confirmed she was drafting legislation. Her 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.
Nat said she had heard from “dozens” of LGBTQ+ Australians who’d been subjected to the practice, saying: “I think this is a situation where people would be blissfully unaware that this was actually an issue and clearly in a society where we expect and insist on equality and inclusion there should be no notion that this type of therapy is even considered.
“To think that there are people out there that would be wilfully and deliberately harming people purely on the basis of their sexuality and gender is something which I find completely unacceptable and I don’t think it passes any type of test in this community.”
The proposed legisaltion was supported by Equality Australia, with its CEO, Anna Brown, saying: “The conversion movement’s activities are proven to be ineffective and harmful. Telling someone they are broken or sick because of who they are is profoundly psychologically damaging.”
A 2018 report found that 10% of the LGBTQ+ population in Australia was “at risk” of being subjected to the harmful practice.
The report found that there were still ten organisations in Australia and New Zealand that were advertising ‘conversion therapy’, and that the practice originated from conservative Christian communities during the 1970s.
The report looked in-depth at the experiences of 15 different people who underwent some form of ‘conversion therapy’. One respondent, known only as Mary, spoke about her experiences during the 1980s.
She reported being subjected to ice baths while people prayed over her, or being chained to her bed and having electrodes attached to her labia.