On Thursday, May 7, Germany passed a law banning “gay conversion therapy” for minors. The new legislation aims to stop adults offering to change or suppress the sexual orientation of those under 18 years of age. Anyone who breaks the law can face a prison sentence of up to one year or a €30,000 fine. Parents and legal guardians can also face punishment for making their children take part in the “therapy” through deception or coercion. Advertising the practice is also banned under the new law.
According to Reuters, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said, “I want a ban which will be robust, including if it’s brought before the courts.” Spahn, who is the most high-profile gay politician in the Christian Democrat party added that, “Young people are being forced into conversion therapies and so it is very important that they should find support in the existence of this law: a clear signal that the state does not want this to happen.”
Germany’s Green party, however, have argued that the ban does not go far enough. The Green party have called for the conversion therapy ban to cover young people up to the age of 26, not just minors. Green legislators said “Only minors are to be protected from this life-endangering charlatanry. At the very least young people aged between 18 and 26 need comparable protection, as is shown by the experiences of coming-out and many young people’s dependence on their families.” The Left Party has called for the ban to cover young people up to the age of 27.
The idea that sexual orientations can be changed or suppressed has been debunked by major medical associations worldwide. Research has instead shown that “conversion therapy” leads to a greater risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide among LGBT+ youth. A 2019 survey in the U.K. found that one in five people who were subjected to “conversion therapy” later attempted suicide.
Despite such evidence, the practice is legal in most of Europe. Malta became the first European country to ban “gay conversion therapy” in 2016. According to the Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation – a human rights organisation based in Berlin – around 1,000 people in Germany undergo “conversion therapy” every year.
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