Legislation has been launched calling for the criminalisation of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in Ireland.

‘Conversion therapy’ is defined as the practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity by using psychological or spiritual interventions.

A bill to criminalise same is being introduced by Senator Fintan Warfield (SF).

Under the proposed new legislation, it would be illegal for conversion therapy to be practiced in Ireland, but it would also be an offence for someone to take a person out of Ireland to undergo the practice.

Under the new legislation, a person found guilty of performing conversion therapy could be fined up to €5,000 or face six months imprisonment, and someone who removes an individual from the state could be fined up to €10,000, or face a year in jail.

Sinn Fein’s spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Denise Mitchell, said the bill is a “very important step”.

She said: “This is a very important step in protecting our young people. Unfortunately, we still see this deeply harmful and archaic practice being advertised and conducted in this state.

“It is often aimed at young people who are struggling with their sexuality and may be quite vulnerable.”

Cllr Pat Dunne (PBP) said: “Nobody from the LGBT community, nor those struggling with their sexual identity, should be either coerced or ‘promised salvation’ by entering into a conversion programme.

“This type of religious Right-wing fundamentalist thinking should be condemned and the proposed bill to ban this conversion therapy practice is welcomed.”

However, Cllr Tom Brabazon (FF) has concerns about the potential repercussions of the Bill’s provisions, in regard to out-of-country travel.

He said: “I think the idea of banning travel of any nature out of the country smacks of autocracy. We would need a STAZI-style police to enforce it.

“Frankly, our gardai are way under-resourced as it is without imposing something that would be illegal under the European treaties on them to enforce. It would leave our citizens more exposed to criminal activity.”

Martha Whyte, manager of OUTHOUSE, a resource centre for LGBT people, told Dublin Gazette that they support the effort to introduce the law into Ireland.

Irreversible harm
She said; “So-called ‘conversion therapies’ have the potential to cause irreversible harm. Trading on self-hatred, shame and guilt, they seek to make the individual feel abnormal. Such practises are often hidden within religious institutions.”

“At Outhouse, we continually see the effects of generic societal homophobia and transphobia, but when that is institutionalised into a so-called ‘conversion’ programme it is akin to torture, literally.

“Although the UN committee against torture has recognised it, still only three states in the world – Brazil, Ecuador and Malta – currently have legislation banning these practices.

“Ireland would be the world’s fourth [to implement this ban], and we fully support the current effort to institute a law here,” Whyte said.