France’s parliament has voted to follow Canada, 20 U.S. states and five other nations in outlawing conversion therapy.
The ban prohibits the widely condemned practice of attempting to change or “cure” an LGBTQ2S+ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Violators will face more than just a slap on the wrist: a fine of 30,000 euros, the equivalent of approximately $43, 500 Canadian dollars, as well as possible imprisonment for up to two years, according to Reuters. Even more serious penalties could be levied if the perpetrators harm minors or vulnerable adults.
The law allows no exemptions for religious or any other groups or medical practitioners.
France’s bill is expected to be signed into law by President Emmanuel Macron before the end of February 2022, as French newspaper The Connexion reports. It has the backing of two key members of Macron’s cabinet: out gay European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune and Equalities Minister Élisabeth Moreno, both of whom tweeted their support for the legislation.
“No, being yourself is not a crime,” Moreno said on Twitter.
The text of the legislation outlaws “practices, behaviours or words aiming to modify or repress [someone’s] sexual orientation or identity, having an effect that alters their physical or mental health.” Proponents of the bill said in 2019 their research had uncovered “hundreds of recent cases” of conversion therapy being practiced in France.
Calling conversion therapy harmful and ineffective, several major medical associations around the world already condemn the practice, which has taken the form of everything from forced prayer to injections, electric shocks and even sexual assault. Leading critics of the practice include the World Health Organization (WHO), American Psychiatric Association (APA) and American Medical Association (AMA), with the latter having opposed conversion therapy since 1996.
Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, Albania and Germany already have similar laws on the books.
Next month, Canada’s own ban on conversion therapy is set to go into effect. The House of Commons and Senate passed Bill C-4 unanimously last month, and the legislation received “royal assent” on Dec. 8, which is a ceremonial signing by the governor general of Canada or a deputy.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the bill’s passage following months of delay. After the legislation stalled in parliament earlier this year, Trudeau vowed to reintroduce C-4 within 100 days and sign it into law.
“It’s official: Our government’s legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent—meaning it is now law,” Trudeau tweeted on Dec. 8. “LGBTQ2 Canadians, we’ll always stand up for you and your rights.”
The legislation had been languishing in Parliament since NDP MP Sheri Benson first tabled a related petition back in 2019, as Xtra’s Mel Woods reported last week. A bill nearly passed this summer, but stalled in the Senate before the end of the legislative session. This time, it moved from being tabled to becoming law in two weeks’ time, with the backing of the conservative opposition.
Once in effect, Canada’s criminal code will outlaw conversion therapy for both children and adults, and it will be a crime to promote or profit from the practice.
But there is no nationwide ban on conversion therapy in either the United States or the United Kingdom. A patchwork of 20 U.S. states, such as New Mexico, Utah and Virginia have banned conversion therapy, but the laws only apply to minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Although a California bill hoped to make the state the first in the country to outlaw the practice for both youth and adults, it was shelved in 2018 due to opposition from conservative Christians.
The U.K. legislation has hit similar roadblocks. As a long-delayed ban continues to flounder, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised “pray the gay away” exemptions for religious groups earlier this year, according to Reuters.