Australia

The 'bigoted quackery' of gay conversion will be illegal in Victoria under proposed new laws

People celebrate the same-sex marriage postal survey result in front of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Wednesday, November 15, 2017 Source: AAP

New laws before the Victorian parliament will outlaw the practice of gay conversion therapy, which the state's Attorney-General has described as "bigoted quackery".

New laws before the Victorian parliament will outlaw a practice that attempts to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Attorney-General Jill Hennessy on Wednesday described the practice of gay conversion therapy as "bigoted quackery".

"Our government is very firmly of the view that gay, lesbian and trans people, they don't need to be fixed, they are perfect the way they are," she told reporters outside parliament.

"What we won't stand by is to have services, whether they're therapeutic health services or pretending to be, or religious techniques, imposing on people something I think is the height of cruelty."

Ms Hennessy said Victorians had been starved, tortured, told to "pray the gay away" and even married off young in an effort to suppress their sexuality or gender identity.

"Some of the stories involved what I would call forms of criminal assault," she said.

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill, to be introduced to the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, denounces such practices as deceptive and harmful.

The bill will empower the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of conversion practices.

It also puts in place strong criminal sanctions for people who subject others to conversion practices that cause injury or serious injury - with up to 10 years' jail for the latter.

Those who try to get around the laws by sending people to conversion practices out of the state would also face criminal sanctions and fines to a maximum of almost $10,000.

“This bill 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 endure across Victoria,” Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said.

“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.”

In August, Queensland became the first state to criminalise gay conversion therapy, with the ACT following suit a week later.

Due to the limited remaining sitting weeks in 2020, it's unlikely the legislation in Victoria will pass until 2021.

LGBTIQ+ Australians seeking support with mental health can contact QLife on 1800 184 527 or visitqlife.org.au. ReachOut.com also has a list of support services.

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