Practitioners of anti-LGBTI ‘conversion therapy’ in Victoria could face prosecution as the state government has ordered an inquiry into the practice.
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy has instructed the Health Complaints Commissioner to investigate, and has not ruled out tougher laws to target religious or health practitioners who attempt to change a person’s sexuality or trans status, The Sydney Morning Herald has reported.
“We have zero tolerance for anyone purporting to ‘convert’ gay people through any medical or therapeutic means,” said Hennessy.
“Victorians who have been harmed through these rogue groups should contact the Commissioner immediately so these unlawful practices can be stopped and practitioners prosecuted.”
Conversion therapy has been widely condemned by bodies including the United Nations, the Australian Psychological Society and the Australian Medical Association.
A survivor’s petition calling on the federal government to outlaw the practice has gathered almost 40,000 signatures.
The Victorian Liberal Party recently drew criticism for attempting to debate a motion in support of conversion therapy, before it was shut down by the party’s state president.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt defended the motion as “freedom of speech” and “a different view”.
The crackdown on conversion therapy comes as the federal government is completing its review of ‘religious freedom’ in Australia.
Some religious groups are calling for exemptions to anti-discrimination law, and for gender and sexuality education to be banned from schools.
Australian Christian Lobby state director Dan Flynn said that “parents should always have the right to raise a child according to their beliefs—and we would always defend a parent’s right to seek counsel in raising their children”.
However, he said the organisation did not endorse “converting anyone’s gender or sexual orientation”.