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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

Conversion therapy practices to carry criminal offence under proposed new ban, says minister

A ban on conversion therapy is promised in the programme for government.

CONVERSION THERAPY PRACTICES will carry a criminal offence under planned legislation, according to Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman. 

The minister updated Cabinet today on the progress being made in banning conversion therapy practices, something that is contained in the programme for government. 

The practice of ‘conversion therapy’ refers to any form of psychological intervention which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation. It is typically carried out in settings without qualified medical supervision. 

The delay in banning the practice in the Republic comes after it was decided that research was needed to determine how prevalent it is, and in what settings it occurs, before legislating to ban it.

The research found that the practices caused significant emotional harm

Speaking to reporters today, O’Gorman said that conversion therapy practices do take place in this country, though rarely.

“They can be deeply, deeply harmful to those who undergo them. So we’re bringing forward legislation to ban the practice of conversion practices,” said the minister, who added that it will be a criminal offence for those that undertake them.

The heads of the bill will be brought before the summer, with pre-legislative scrutiny to take place in the autumn.

The legislation is very much focused on harmful practices, explained the minister.

“We’re not talking about conversations that take place about a person’s sexual orientation or their gender identity, the conversation between parents and kids, conversations between a priest or minister and a parishioner, conversations between a therapist and a client. We’re not talking about those.

“But where somebody is seeking to suppress or to eliminate or to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. That’s where real damage can be done and that’s why we’re bringing forward this legislation,” said O’Gorman. 

The proposed legislation is in line with the recommendations from the United Nations and is in line with similar legislative approaches undertaken in many European countries, said the minister. 

There will also be a ban on advertising conversion therapy imposed under the proposed legislation. 

LGBT Ireland CEO Paula Fagan said the legislation to ban conversion practices will “help ensure that those experiencing distress about their sexual orientation or gender identity because of homophobia or transphobia will not be lured into conversion practices that will do more damage in the long run”.

Highlighting the research carried out into the practice here in Ireland, she said: 

“We cannot allow such deeply damaging practices to continue in Ireland, and we look forward to the Government taking swift follow-up action to ensure the legislation is now published, introduced, debated and enacted as a matter of urgency.”

She said a range of countries have already introduced nationwide bans, including Spain, France, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Iceland. 

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