France bans conversion therapy

New legislation includes criminal penalties for people who are convicted of trying to ‘convert’ LGBTQ people to heterosexuality.

A participant holds a rainbow heart during the annual Gay Pride march in Paris last year
A participant holds a rainbow heart during the annual Gay Pride march in Paris last year

France has a new law that bans conversion therapies and authorises jail time and fines for practitioners who use the scientifically discredited practice to attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people.

The National Assembly approved the new law unanimously, voting 142 to 0 on Tuesday evening.

The legislation includes criminal penalties for people who are convicted of trying to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations.

The annual Gay Pride march in Paris last year
The annual Gay Pride march in Paris last year (Lewis Joly/AP)

The law also opens the possibility for campaigners to file civil suits on behalf of victims, an advance hailed in parliament as a breakthrough for people who hesitate or are unable to alert police themselves.

Politician Laurence Vanceunebrock, who helped steer the law’s passage through parliament, said it would target “all those who equated an identity or a sexual orientation with sickness”.

“There is nothing to cure,” she told the National Assembly.

The French government’s equalities and diversity minster, Elisabeth Moreno, described conversion therapies as “barbaric” and told politicians that the suffering they inflicted “very often leaves permanent marks on bodies and minds”.

Under the new law, sustained efforts “that aim to modify or reprimand sexual orientation or gender identity” and which impact the physical or mental health of victims are punishable by up to two years in jail and 30,000 euros (£25,000) in fines.

The punishment can increase to three years’ imprisonment and fines of 45,000 euros (£38,000) for attempts involving minors or other particularly vulnerable people.

Therapies to change a person’s sexual orientation are already prohibited in multiple US states and the US Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico.

The law will take effect in the next 14 days with President Emmanuel Macron’s signoff.

Mr Macron hailed the legislation’s passage, tweeting: “Let’s be proud of it. Because being oneself is not a crime.”

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