Portugal’s Parliament passed several bills expanding the rights of the LGBTQ community on Friday, including a ban on “conversion therapies” aimed at changing gender identity or sexual orientation. The bills were on their first reading.
The ruling Socialist Party, which has an absolute majority in Parliament, proposed a text which establishes penalties of up to two years imprisonment for anyone found to be responsible for practices that “facilitate or promote” such “therapies.” Conversion therapies are a pseudoscientific practice trying to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity to align with heterosexual and cisgender norms
Similar bills have also been submitted by other parties and the various texts will now have to be merged into one law before final adoption. Parliament also passed texts in favour of gender self-determination in a school context.
Causing depression, anxiety and self-hatred
“Conversion therapies” continue to be practised in Europe, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic warned in a report published in February.
The Strasbourg-based human rights organisation urged member states to put an end to these practices, which include various methods such as electroshock therapy, hormone intake and exorcism rites, often “legally and usually under a medical or religious pretext.”
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In the European Union, at least "2% of LGBTQ people have undergone such practices and 5% have been offered conversion practices" that can cause "depression, anxiety, self-hatred, suicidal thoughts," according to the same report. In the UK, it is estimated that up to one in five LGBTQ people have undergone such practices.
In 2016, Malta was the first European country to ban them. Several other states such as Germany, Greece, Albania or France have also legislated in this direction, while in other states, plans to ban them are under consideration.
Last year, Belgium also decided to ban conversion therapy, sanctioning the conduction of conversion practices by imprisonment of one month to two years and/or a fine of €100 to €300.