Monday, May 16

Why it matters. The ban on conversion therapies soon to be adopted in France

On January 20, 2022, the Senate adopted the bill banning conversion therapy in France. This Tuesday, the text, tabled by MP Laurence Vanceunebrock (LREM), is back in the National Assembly, which had adopted it unanimously at first reading, on October 5, 2021.

What is conversion therapy?

Born in the United States at the end of the 1970s, conversion therapies have one objective: to “cure” homosexual, bisexual, lesbian or transgender people by “converting” them to heterosexuality or by modifying their gender identity.

These practices can take different forms: interviews, internships, exorcisms. In the most extreme cases, they can go as far as taking medication, electroshock sessions or even hormone injections.

The bill, which should be adopted by deputies on Tuesday, stipulates that these conversion therapies have “no medical or therapeutic basis” and “that they are the work of a minority of self-proclaimed ‘therapists’ and certain representatives or followers of religions”.

“Some consider that homosexuals are possessed by a female demon”

For Benoît Berthe, spokesperson for the collective “Nothing to heal”, which brings together around 70 victims of conversion therapy, “these practices are not only the prerogative of Christian religious communities. This can also happen in radical Muslim circles,” he adds. Before specifying: “We became aware of places in Paris and Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis) where people claiming to be of the Muslim faith offered rokya (exorcism sessions, editor’s note) considering that homosexuals were possessed by a demon. feminine “.

What consequences?

Generally aimed at a young audience, these therapies have dramatic and lasting effects on the physical and mental health of those who undergo them: depression, isolation, suicide.

“Between 15 and 18, my parents took me to psycho-spiritual sessions. They didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, they wanted to help me. But they had a misguided reading of the Bible,” recalls Benoît Berthe, now 32 years old. In the collective “Nothing to heal”, of which he is the spokesperson, he says that “some members have experienced eight to nine exorcisms… It crushes lives”.

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What will the text change?

The bill aims to ban conversion therapy, by creating a specific offence. Doctors who claim to treat a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity could face two years in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros. These doctors will also risk a ban from practicing for up to ten years.

On this last point, the senators specified that the health professional who invites his patient to be cautious and reflect before embarking on a transition course will not be punishable.

Benoît Berthe is delighted that this bill is about to be adopted in France. “A law defending the rights of LGBT people, voted unanimously by the deputies (it refers to the adoption of the bill by the deputies at first reading on October 5, 2021), it is historic. Until now, there were holes in the racket. Contrary to what we were told, French legislation was not sufficient to condemn conversion therapy. Because these practices are not just abuses of weakness.

Only downside for Benoît Berthe: the scale of penalties. He considers that the penalties incurred are “insufficient”: “30,000 euros and two years in prison, it is the equivalent of what one risks for a slap with voluntary violence”, he estimates.

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