conversion therapyOn Monday, March 9, 2020, amendments to the Criminal Code proposing to ban so-called “conversion therapy” practices to change, suppress, or divert one’s sexual orientation or gender identity were introduced in Canada by its ministers of Justice and Diversity, Inclusion and Youth.

“Conversion therapy” practices are already illegal in a number of provinces and cities around Canada, including Ontario, Manitoba, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. The “Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)” goes a step beyond regional bans and proposes nation-wide criminalization of the practices, naming specifically the prohibition of causing minors to undergo “conversion therapy” at home or abroad, as well as criminalizing advertising of and profiting from “conversion therapy”.

If passed, Canada will join Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan, becoming only the 5th country in the world to ban “conversion therapy” at a national level.

In August 2019, OutRight Action International released the groundbreaking report “Harmful Treatment. The Global Reach of So-Called Conversion Therapy”, showing that, while “conversion therapy” practices vary across religious, cultural, or traditional contexts and range in their forms of psychological and physical violence, they are prevalent in countries across the globe.

They have been condemned by all major psychological, psychiatric, and medical associations, including the World Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Psychological Association, and recognized to cause deep, lasting trauma on those who are forced, or choose, to undergo them.

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, comments:

“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ efforts hinge on the belief that cis-gender heterosexuality is the norm, and transgender identities and/or same-sex attraction not only fall outside the norm, but have to be changed, if need be by brutal, inhuman force. By introducing a bill which foresees a nation-wide ban, the government of Canada has sent a powerful message – that LGBTIQ people are not in need of change or cure. I commend the ministers in question for taking this important step, and urge authorities to bolster this effort with measures designed to promote understanding and inclusion of LGBTIQ people, thus tackling the root causes of these harmful, inhuman practices.”

International attention on so-called “conversion therapy” has grown in recent months and years. The UN’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is working on a report on the topic due to be issued in June. A nationwide ban is pending in Germany; bans have also been considered in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Chile and elsewhere.

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