Belgium to criminalise conversion therapy
Conversion therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation of LGBTQI+ people will soon be criminalised in Belgium. The parliamentary Justice committee unanimously approved a bill to this effect on Tuesday, except for an abstention by Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang.
The bill, which still has to be approved by the entire parliament, introduces a prison sentence of eight days to two years and fines of 208 to 2,400 euros for performing conversion practices. A judge can also impose a professional ban of up to five years if the crime was committed in a professional context. Suggesting, inciting or advertising conversion therapy will also become punishable.
"Our country is once again a pioneer in the field of LGTBQI+ rights with the adoption of the law prohibiting conversion practices"
Conversion therapies are ineffective and sometimes downright dangerous practices such as psychotherapy, administering electric shocks, beatings or "corrective rape". These practices occur mainly in religious or sectarian settings and are usually carried out by family members or pseudo-professionals. They are harmful to the physical and mental health of the victims, as well as stigmatising and discriminatory.
Conversion therapy is banned in several European countries, such as France, Germany, Malta and some Spanish regions. No such explicit ban currently exists in Belgium. In certain situations, the practice can be punished by other penal provisions, such as those for assault, battery, or rape, but this does not apply to all forms. And it is the less extreme forms that are most common in Belgium.
The bill was introduced by state secretary Marie-Colline Leroy of Ecolo, the French-speaking green party, and Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne of Open VLD, the Flemish liberal party.
Leroy said she was proud that Belgium was reaffirming its pioneering role in LGBTQI+ rights. " We recently celebrated that 20 years ago, Belgium was the second country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. Today, our country is once again a pioneer in the field of LGTBQI+ rights with the adoption of the law prohibiting conversion practices."
A rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossing outside the Belgian Federal Parliament in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ