The Change and Suppression (Conversion) Prohibition Bill that bans conversion practices seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity passed the lower house of the Victorian Parliament on Thursday. Fifty five MPs voted in favour of the legislation, while the Opposition Liberal Party abstained.
The Bill will now head to the Legislative Council where it will be debated when the Victorian Parliament resumes in 2021.
“This bill will change lives. This bill will save lives. It should have happened years ago and it must happen now,” Premier Dan Andrews said in Parliament during the debate on the Bill on Thursday. “Every person has the right to be proud of who they are and who they love and should never be required to hide away, let alone apologise, for their identity. You are not broken. You are not in need of treatment. You are you and you are equal.”
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy in her compatibility statement while introducing the Bill in the Lower House on November 26, outlined that the Bill was compatible with the human rights charter.
“LGBT people are at greater risk of discrimination and poor mental health. This risk is compounded for LGBT people who live in communities where change or suppression practices are conducted. Evidence from survivors of change or suppression practices and LGBTIQ+ support and advocacy organisations has demonstrated the ongoing harm and trauma caused by these practices, including long-term mental illness and suicide,” stated Hennessy.
“The Bill promotes the right to life by protecting LGBT Victorians from the significant harm caused by change or suppression practices,” said Hennessy, adding, “The creation of four criminal offences provides effective protection against harm and discrimination experienced on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The offences prohibit change or suppression practices in a way which responds to the severity of the harm caused and the circumstances of the conduct, and aims to deter such practices from occurring.”
The Greens voted in favour of the new legislation along with the Labor party. “Today was an important step towards outlawing dangerous conversion practices in Victoria and I want to acknowledge the survivors of conversion practices who helped make it happen. Their advocacy and their stories have brought this issue to the fore and resulted in this bill,” said Greens MP and spokesperson for LGBTQIA+ Equality Sam Hibbins.
“All people, no matter their sexuality or gender identity, deserve to be accepted, supported and loved for who they are. That’s why the Greens voted in support of this bill. We hope the Coalition pulls their heads in when the bill is voted on in the upper house to ensure this important reform gets passed without a hitch,” added Hibbins, referring to the Opposition leaving the Chambers when the Bill was put to vote in the lower house.
The Bill makes it a criminal offence to subject others to practices aimed at changing or suppressing their sexual orientation or gender identity that cause injury or serious injury. If these practices cause serious injury the offender can face up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $200,000. In case of injury the maximum prison term is five years and/or a fine of up to $100,000.
If Victorians try to subject people to these practices outside Victoria with a view to avoid harsh penalties in the state, they could face a jail term of up to two years. Advertising such harmful practices will invite criminal prosecution and fines of up to $10,000. In certain circumstances conversion practices could be considered as a form of family violence. The Bill provides a mechanism for a civil response scheme within the VEOHRC to support survivors.
Groups like the Australian Christian Lobby are opposing the bill calling it “the most dangerous and draconian bill we have ever seen in Australia.”