Queensland has officially become the first Australian state to criminalise LGBTQ+ conversion therapy, a discredited and harmful practice that attempts to "cure' homosexuality by altering an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.
Queensland’s Health Legislation Amendment Bill now states that any health service provider found to be performing the controversial practice on a child or vulnerable individual with an “impaired capacity” to understand health treatments will be charged with 18 months in jail.
All other cases will see the health professional face 12 months jail time.
Conversion therapy — which can include practices like electroconvulsive therapy, forced isolation, food deprivation, talk therapy and hypnotherapy — has proved ineffective and only exacerbates inequality for LGBTQ+ individuals, including depression, homelessness, economic disparity and poverty.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said the “risks are even greater” for young LGBTQ+ people.
"Being LGBTIQ is not an affliction or disease that requires medical treatment," Miles said, according to SBS. "No treatment or practice can change a person's sexual attraction or experience of gender."
While a promising first step, Australian conversion therapy survivors say the new law doesn’t go far enough.
The legislation currently does not cover cases of conversion therapy outside the healthcare profession. Survivors claim, however, that the vast majority of cases occur in informal settings, like religious groups or pastoral care.
Chris Csabs, the co-founder of anti-conversion therapy group SOGICE Survivors, has put together a Change.org petition, aptly titled “‘Praying the Gay Away’ Nearly Killed Me — Outlaw LGBTQA+ Conversion Therapy Now,” which calls for a much broader, multi-faceted law.
"Despite being labelled a 'ban on gay conversion therapy,' this legislation will not provide protection in the vast majority of cases, nor will it get to the root of the problem," the petition reads. “The Brave Network, which is the largest survivor network in Australia, indicates that only a small handful of the survivors of conversion practices within the last decade have reported that their experiences were in formal health settings, in contrast to the hundreds of recent survivors whose experiences have been self-directed or in informal settings."
A 2018 report from La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Center revealed religious conversion therapy is “pervasive” in many faith communities in Australia.” The report calls on the federal government to introduce legislation that prohibits conversion therapy against children by anyone, regardless of their qualification.
Two other states and territories, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, have also pledged to ban conversion therapy.
Queensland follows a range of other jurisdictions to outlaw the practise, including Brazil, Ontario, Manitoba, Ecuador, Malta, Spain, Taiwan, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii and the Church of England.