Bundesrat approves ban on “conversion therapies

Bundesrat approves ban on 'conversion therapies

Conversion therapies aimed at converting homosexuals will be punishable in the future © Natasha Kramskaya (shutterstock)

The Bundesrat has approved legislation to ban the attempted “re-polarization” of homosexual and transgender people. Thus, so-called conversion therapies will be punishable in the future. Questions and answers about the law:

What kind of “treatments” are involved?

In simple terms, it is about all attempts to “cure” or “re-polarize” homosexual or transgender people. Even the terms “therapy” and “treatment” are considered misleading by many, as they suggest that homosexuality is a disease. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) speaks of “alleged therapies” that make people ill and not healthy. They often cause severe physical and emotional suffering. The World Health Organization has also declared that homosexuality is not a disease. Medical associations condemn so-called conversion therapies as a violation of human rights and as incompatible with the ethics of medical practice.

How often do such conversion attempts occur in Germany??

According to estimates by the Federal Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation, which is committed to combating discrimination against homosexual and transgender people, among others, more than 1.000 Attempts are being made to “cure” or “re-polarize” those affected. According to the Foundation, these experiments are carried out not only by doctors, psychologists and psychotherapists, but also by members of independent institutions, associations, churches and religious communities.

What is prohibited in the future?

Medical and other interventions aimed at deliberately changing or suppressing sexual orientation or self-perceived gender identity will be punishable in the future. In general, this applies when such experiments are carried out on minors. In the case of adults, their consent must be based on, for example, deception, error, coercion or threat. As an example of this, the Ministry of Health cites the failure of the “treatment provider” to provide information about the harmfulness of the “treatment”. Critics had called for the age limit for the general ban to be set higher than 18 years old. In addition, the law prohibits the advertising, offering and brokering of conversion treatments.

What are the penalties?

Whoever carries out a corresponding treatment attempt must expect a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine. Offering and advertising can be punished as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to 30.000 euros.

To whom does the ban apply?

The law explicitly includes everyone, not just those who perform conversion experiments as part of their job or profession. Parents and other guardians can also be punished if they grossly violate their duty of care or education. This restriction had also drawn criticism: For example, the Bundesrat had argued that an “unethical, unfit and harmful intervention” would always grossly violate the duty of care or education.

From when will the ban apply?

The law has yet to be promulgated and is expected to come into force in the middle of the year. As of the day after promulgation, the ban then applies.

What types of treatments, talks, and therapy services are still OK to offer? What applies, for example, to counseling sessions?

Expressly excluded are treatments of medically recognized disorders of sexual preference, for example exhibitionism or pedophilia. In addition, surgical procedures or hormone treatments aimed at fulfilling a desire for gender reassignment will continue to be allowed. In pastoral and psychotherapeutic conversations, only the attempt to purposefully influence sexual orientation or self-perceived gender identity is prohibited. The exchange about the life situation, possible faith commandments or the handling of the own sexual orientation is also in the future in order.

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Christina Cherry
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