The German cabinet has just approved a proposal that makes the country one step closer to banning conversion therapy on LGBTQ+ youth. After a Wednesday vote, the legislation now moves to the lower house of the legislature for consideration, according to the German media outlet Deutsche Welle.
Anyone caught offering conversion therapy to LGBTQ+ youth in Germany could soon be sentenced to a year in prison or subjected to a fine.
According to the German radio network Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, the country’s health minister, Jens Spahn, unveiled a draft law Monday that would prevent the treatment from being performed on youth under the age of 18.
Spahn announced in June he would be introducing a proposal preventing LGBTQ+ youth from being subjected to these treatments. The minister, who is a gay man, claimed the move would show “all those who are struggling with their homosexuality” that “it's OK to be the way you are.”
“We have to convince parents to accept their children the way they are and we must take away the worries from young people to feel ashamed,” he said earlier this year.
Conversion therapy refers to a loosely defined set of practices ranging from talk therapy to electroshock and water torture, which are intended to “cure” patients of their LGBTQ+ identities. It has been decried as harmful, ineffective, and even deadly by nearly every leading medical association in the United States, and the World Health Organization and United Nations have likened the practice to “torture.”
But if passed, Germany’s law would not be a complete ban. LGBTQ+ people over the age of 18 are still free to seek conversion treatments.
According to research from the Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation cited by the BBC, more than 1,000 youth and adults are subjected to conversion therapy in Germany each year. In the United States, almost 700,000 people are survivors of the practice.
After the European island of Malta became the first nation in the world to pass a legislative ban on conversion therapy in 2016, other countries have been slow to follow in its footsteps. Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom have all discussed potential reforms that would ban the practice, but none has come to fruition. Eighteen U.S. states have outlawed conversion therapy, but it remains legal federally.
Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country would not move to ban conversion therapy, claiming it would conflict with religious freedom.
Although Malta is the only country to pass a bill banning conversion therapy through its parliament, others have taken their own actions to limit the anti-LGBTQ+ practice — including Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Fiji, Samoa, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Uruguay.