Conversion Therapy Banned in Canada: A Wake-Up Call for Others

by | Jan 22, 2022

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About Vismita Rathi

Vismita Rathi is a second-year student pursuing BBA LLB (Hons.) at Gujarat National Law University in India.

Image Description: A 6-colour (Rainbow) Pride Flag flying in the sky. The rays of the sun are falling on the Flag.

Background

“Conversion therapy” is an umbrella term used to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature, all of which have in common the belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed. It is provided both under state control (hospitals, detention facilities, schools) and in private settings such as religious institutions, youth camps and retreats.

Recently, conversion therapy was banned in Canada. After several unsuccessful attempts by the Parliament to ban this inhumane practice, the bill finally received royal assent on December 8, 2021 and came into effect on January 7, 2022.

Legal Aspects

The newly introduced legislation in Canada makes it a criminal offense to cause someone to undergo conversion therapy, receive financial or other material benefits from providing it, promote or advertise the practice and do anything for the purpose of removing a child from Canada with the intention of making them undergo conversion therapy in another country.

It also amends the Criminal Code to authorise courts to order removal of advertisements for conversion therapy.

Anyone convicted of causing another person to undergo conversion therapy faces a prison term of up to five years, while individuals who promote, advertise, or materially benefit from conversion therapy may face up to two years in prison, according to the bill.

The bill further expands on former Bill C-6, adopted by the House of Commons in the previous Parliament by providing protection to all Canadians, regardless of their age, from the harms of conversion therapy practices.

With the introduction of the new bill, Canada has certainly plugged all the potential loopholes and taken a step in the right direction by banning this abhorrent practice. The lawmakers have not only laid out clear terms of restrictions but also set up a robust complaint mechanism to avoid any exploitation whatsoever. Other countries too need to follow suit and act quickly to ban this dangerous and abusive practice.

Situation in other countries

Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, Albania, Germany and now Canada have already partially or fully outlawed the practices but with discrimination against LGBTQ people rife, conversion therapy still remains prevalent in almost every region of the world.

The widespread disdain and terror of LGBTQ individuals in societies around the world is directly tied to the use of “conversion therapy.” These methods are based on the assumption that cisgender heterosexuality is the sole recognised norm, and that gender identities other than binary and same-sex desire are anomalies that must be “reoriented,” “transformed,” or “cured” – if necessary, with cruel, inhuman force.

The Way Forward

While progress on same-sex marriage has enjoyed more coverage in the news, legal reforms limiting conversion therapy have also made overwhelming strides since 2012, but there are still many gaps that need to be filled. To begin with, countries should not only focus on bringing in legislation to ban the practice, but strive towards achieving enforcement as well. In addition to laws and regulations, governmental authorities all over the world should ensure (i) public funds are not used to support the practice; (ii) awareness programs are conducted regularly; and, (iii) access to all forms of repatriations to victims is made available. It is now time for the society and policymakers to reflect, introspect and make reforms in sexuality and social policies.

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