Victoria has become the third jurisdiction in Australia to outlaw the harmful practice of LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.
The state’s parliament finally passed the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill with 27 votes to nine after a hefty 12-hour discussion, according to SBS News. The amendments make any therapy that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in Victoria illegal and includes significant fines and jail time.
The discredited practice of conversion therapy can include electroconvulsive therapy, forced isolation, aversion therapy, food deprivation, hormone therapy, talk therapy and hypnotherapy.
The practice perpetuates anti-LGBTQ+ stereotypes and exacerbates heightened rates of LGBTQ+ poverty, discrimination, homelessness and suicide.
A 2018 report revealed conversion therapy is still an issue across the region.
Findings by La Trobe University, the Human Rights Law Centre and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria show conversion therapy “remains a real problem in Australian religious communities,” with at least 10 organisations across Australia and New Zealand actively advertising the pseudoscientific practice.
"The bill outlaws any therapy that attempts to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity and empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and @AusHumanRights to investigate reports of conversion practices."https://t.co/xsvJVltgSB#LGBTQ#Australia— PRIDE IN DIVERSITY (@PrideDiversity) February 8, 2021
The new bill gives the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission the power to bring cases to the police.
Those who attempt to circumvent the laws by directing Victorians to therapy out of the state will also be slapped with fines of up to $10,000 and be subjected to criminal sanctions.
"The objects of this [Act are] to ensure that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, feel welcome and valued in Victoria and are able to live authentically and with pride,” the amended bill states. “In enacting this Act, it is the intention of the Parliament to affirm that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is not broken and in need of fixing and to affirm that no sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes a disorder, disease, illness, deficiency or shortcoming.”
Anna Brown, the CEO of Equality Australia, said the new law sends a “powerful message.”
"This law sends a powerful message that LGBTQ+ people are whole and valid just as they are, and establishes powerful mechanisms to deal with incredibly harmful practices that LGBTQ+ people have, for too long, endured across Victoria," she said in a media release. "From consent-based facilitation, investigation and enforcement action by the Equal Opportunity Commission, to criminal penalties for serious injury, this legislation provides a range of avenues to prevent harm and bring perpetrators to justice."
Activists have praised the law for going further than its counterparts in Queensland and the Australia Capital Territory.
Similar laws in the two other jurisdictions either only prohibit the practise in healthcare settings and not religious grounds or focus primarily on changing rather than suppressing sexual orientation or gender identity.
The law will come into effect in 12 months.