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What is ‘gay conversion’, and why is Germany cracking down on it?

On Wednesday, the German Cabinet approved a draft Bill widening the scope of government action against the "therapy", which can include giving electric shocks to force homosexual people to turn heterosexual.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
December 19, 2019 8:16:22 pm
gay conversion therapy, germany gay conversion therapy, germany gay conversion therapy law, indian express, what is germany gay conversion therapy, indian express explained The legislation will be introduced next year to Germany’s lower house, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

Germany’s government has moved to largely ban the so-called “gay conversion therapy”, a practice that purports to “cure” homosexuality by turning gay people straight.

On Wednesday (December 18), the German Cabinet approved a draft Bill widening the scope of government action against the “therapy”, which employs psychotherapeutic methods, including giving electric shocks, to force homosexual people to turn heterosexual.

The legislation

The legislation will be introduced next year to Germany’s lower house, Health Minister Jens Spahn told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) newsgroup.

According to a report by the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), the Bill proposes to ban the purported “therapy” for everyone under the age of 18.

Consenting adults will be allowed to seek “treatment”, but with strict conditions.

An initial draft of the Bill allowed exemptions from the ban in the 16-18 age group if the practitioner of the “treatment” was able to prove that the patient has the capacity to understand the implications and risks of treatment, the DW report said.

However, the draft passed by the Cabinet removed these exemptions.

DW quoted the Minister Spahn, who is openly gay, as saying: “Previously there were exceptions for adolescents (16-18-year-olds). We got rid of this because it was exactly between these ages that most people undergo this practice.”

It was “much too dangerous for body and soul for that grey area to continue to be permitted”, Spahn was quoted as saying.

The Bill will propose a fine of € 30,000 for advertising or offering the so-called “conversion therapies”. Once passed by both Houses, persons violating the law will face up to a year in prison.

The “therapy”

The idea of conversion therapies is linked to the one that sees homosexuality as a mental disorder. This is a view that mental health professionals reject.

The world over, such “therapies” are typically promoted by organisations and institutions with religious links. (In India, some “godmen” have made claims along these lines.) In Germany, an estimated 1,000-2,000 “conversion” attempts are made each year, in order to “re-educate” gay people.

“Conversion therapies” typically use psychotherapeutic means or counselling to eliminate an individual’s desire for members of their own sex.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has opposed any psychiatric treatment “that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a priori assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation”.

In 2013, the APA clarified again that same-sex attraction, whether expressed in action, fantasy, or identity does not imply impairment in judgment, reliability or stability.

“The American Psychiatric Association does not believe that same-sex orientation should or needs to be changed, and efforts to do so represent a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated and by undermining self-esteem when sexual orientation fails to change,” it stressed.

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