Queensland on Thursday became the first state in Australia to ban conversion practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Health Legislation Amendment Bill, that contained provisions criminalising the practise of conversion therapies in health settings, was passed in the Legislative Assembly by 47 votes to 41. The LNP opposed provisions banning conversion practices claiming the law would “turn doctors into criminals.”
The new provisions have outlawed conversion practices by a health professional that “attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” A broad suite of practices can now invite criminal prosecution, including “conditioning techniques such as aversion therapy, psychoanalysis and hypnotherapy, clinical interventions, including counselling, or group activities that aim to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
A health practitioner who performs the discredited therapy on another person can be punished with 100 penalty points and up to 12 months imprisonment, while those who perform conversion therapy on children and other vulnerable people would face up to 18 months in jail and 150 penalty points.
The law defines a vulnerable person as a child, a person who has impaired capacity for making decisions about a particular treatment offered by a health service provider or a person with an impairment that is likely to significantly limit the person’s ability to understand a particular treatment offered by a health service provider.
Providing services and support to persons to cope with gender dysphoria, gender affirming hormone treatment or gender transition does not fall under the purview of the law.
Conversion therapy survivors have said that the law does not go far enough to address their concerns.
According to SOGICE Survivors and Brave Network, conversion survivor led groups, the law covers health service providers, while leaving out the “bulk of harm that occurs in informal settings like pastoral care in faith communities.”
“From the perspective and the survivors we are really really concerned because the bill only covers conversion practices in health services. So, any that are not in a therapeutic setting, are not covered by this bill. The concern is that a vast majority of survivors have gone through conversion practices in a religious or informal setting,” Chris Csabs of SOGICE Survivors told Star Observer. “This bill is not going to be protective enough and it is not actually enough to stop the harm that is occurring.”
Csabs now hopes that other states that are planning to introduce laws against conversion practices take into consideration the concerns of survivors.
“I’m hoping that the other states will pass much broader laws that will address more than just health services. We’re very hopeful that they will actually adopt the recommendations by survivors groups rather than just passing something really quickly,” said Csabs
“In terms of the Queensland law I hope that this is just the first step. Unfortunately, a lot of the time we see that first steps become last steps and that is a real problem. It’s very easy to tick a box and say ‘yeah, we did it, We did it first’. We have banned conversion practices, but does it really matter if it’s not actually not going to stop the harm. It looks like a lot of harm will still continue,” said Csabs, adding that more weight should have been given to the recommendations by survivors.
In January, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) had asked the state to include “non-regulated professionals such as those claiming to be counsellors or religious advisers” in the ambit of the new law
Meanwhile, the Australian Christian Lobby sought to stoke unfounded fears that the new law will “turn reputable doctors into criminals.”
In a related development, a proposed law to ban conversion therapy has been introduced in the legislative assembly in ACT. The ACT law proposes fines of up to $24,000 and 12 months imprisonment.