Liberty Victoria welcomes bill to prohibit conversion practices

Victoria can be a place where sexually and gender diverse Victorians can grow up feeling accepted, supported and loved. 

The Victorian Government’s Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 is a very welcome human rights measure. Liberty Victoria applauds this important initiative, and calls on all members of Parliament to support its prompt passage.

The existence of “conversion” practices in Victoria presents a serious risk to the wellbeing of members of the LGBTIQ community. It also makes our society one in which people are less free to be themselves.

The ideology that fuels these practices deploys false and damaging notions that people whose sexual orientation or gender identity do not fit its rigid binary prescriptions are “broken” and need to be “fixed” or “cured”. This new law will put a stop to cruel and harmful practices that have no place in a civilised society.

Overwhelming clinical evidence demonstrates that practices aimed at the reorientation of LGBTIQ people are harmful and unethical. The science demonstrates that efforts to change or suppress do cause serious and ongoing harm, leading to depression and other psychological injury, often long-lasting, and including self-harm and even suicide.

The 2018 Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice report by La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre also found that “all Australian health authorities, including the Christian Counsellors Association of Australia, now ‘strongly oppose any form of mental health practice that … seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation’.”

The Bill contains both criminal and civil processes to effect its aims. Criminal offences attend the most egregious actions to impose the extremist ideology on its victims. Liberty Victoria supports the Government’s move to ensure that criminal processes are only used in the rarest and most serious cases.  

The civil provisions of the Bill are much more important, in Liberty’s view. They include education for perpetrators (actual or potential), support and referral to professional help for victims, and (if a victim wants this) the opportunity to seek apology or other redress. The Bill gives new powers for the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to deliver these services, and also powers to receive and investigate reports of change or suppression practices, with enforcement measures including enforceable undertakings and compliance notices.

Liberty Victoria also welcomes the Bill’s amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act which will further protect LGBTIQ people from discrimination.

This reform is nuanced, thoughtful and respectful of human rights. It will put an end to cruel and misguided practices that cause great harm and distress to LGBTIQ folk and their families, particularly people of faith.

We commend the survivors of these cruel practices for tirelessly working to prohibit them, and the Victorian Government for working closely with survivors.

Liberty Victoria urges all MPs to vote in favour when it comes to the vote.

Contact: Jamie Gardiner, Vice-President, 0412 795 491
         

The HRLC and La Trobe University research was published as: Jones, T, Brown, A, Carnie, L, Fletcher, G, & Leonard, W. Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice: Responding to LGBT Conversion Therapy in Australia. Melbourne: GLHV@ARCSHS and the Human Rights Law Centre, 2018

For further information on the Bill and its background see the Victorian LGBTIQ+ Commissioner’s post on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/VicCommissionerLGBTIQ) or visit www.vic.gov.au/lgbtq-change-and-suppression-practices-fact-sheet