Belgium is banning all conversion practices for members of the LGBTQ+ community, announced State Secretary for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunity, and Diversity Sarah Schlitz, according to the Brussels Times.
Belgium is regularly regarded as a model of LGBTQ+ rights due to its extensive legislative arsenal. However, conversion practices – often referred to as “conversion therapy,” considered a misnomer by medical professionals as it does not constitute a legitimate form of therapy – were not yet banned.
“Belgium is a pioneer in the field of LGBTQ rights. Numerous legislative reforms and social efforts bear witness to this, but a ban [on conversion practices] was sadly missing from our legislative arsenal,” Schlitz said in a press release.
A recent study by the Centre Permanent pour la Citoyenneté et la Participation (CPCP) reveals the stories of LGBTQ+ people who have been victims of these so-called medical therapies or even forms of exorcisms.
Conversion practices are “deceptive, ineffective, and dangerous,” aiming to change, suppress, or eliminate the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of LGBTQ+ people.
“The opportunity to be yourself and the freedom to live the way you want is a fundamental principle of our society that must not be compromised under any circumstances,” Schlitz said. “This prohibition is a powerful act to protect the victims from this symbolic, psychological and sometimes physical violence.”
Psychotherapy, electroshock therapy, beatings, and even “corrective rape” are all used. They can take place in religious, medical, or sectarian environments, can be carried out by relatives or pseudo-professionals and have terrible consequences for the people who undergo them.
Carrying out conversion practices will now be punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and/or a fine of €100 to €300.
The court will also take into account whether the offence was committed by a person in a recognized position of trust, authority or influence over the victim, and whether the offence was committed against a minor or a person in a vulnerable situation.
Suggesting or inciting conversion practices, directly or indirectly, will also be penalised. The court will be able to prohibit people convicted of conversion practices from carrying out a professional or social activity related to the commission of these offences for a maximum period of five years.
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