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Health minister calls for gay 'conversion therapy' ban

February 16, 2019

German Health Minister Jens Spahn wants the practice to be made illegal, calling it "a form of assault." Spahn has said he hopes a law banning it could be ready by mid-2019.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn
Image: Reuters/F. Bensch

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday that he will seek to ban so-called conversion therapies that claim to change a person's sexual orientation.

"Homosexuality is not an illness and therefore does not need therapy," Spahn told the Berlin daily die tageszeitung.

Read more: Gay 'conversion therapy' — trauma for LGBTQ teens

Spahn said he hoped a German law banning the practices could be passed by the middle of 2019.

"I do not believe in these therapies, mainly owing to my own homosexuality," said Spahn, who represents the right-wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union party (CDU).

Spahn said that "from a legal point of view, these services today can be a form of assault, and not only against minors."

The practices collectively referred to as "conversion therapy" use a range of techniques that claim to change a person's sexual orientation. Some methods involve injections of large doses of testosterone, while others apply electric shocks to people as they view images of homosexual acts.

Ministries need convincing

Spahn told the paper the Health Ministry wanted to commission a study on the legal processes needed to achieve the ban, based on examples from Malta, New York and Australia.

"Based on the findings, we will then decide what we can implement in Germany," Spahn said. "But we also still have to convince colleagues from other ministries."

Read more: Germans tolerant of LGBT neighbors, but not Muslim ones

In the European Union, only Malta and some Spanish regions have banned the practice.

In March 2018, a large majority of European Parliament deputies adopted a nonbinding text that called on member states to outlaw such practices.

Fines not enough

In 2013, Greens representative Volker Beck brought forward a draft law that called for the so-called therapy to be classified as a misdemeanor punishable with a minimum fine of €500 ($565).

But Spahn said he did not find that adequate.

"A misdemeanor charge does not go far enough for me," Spahn said, adding that the fine suggested by the Greens would not provide enough of a deterrent. "The professional law should stipulate that there are consequences for people who offer these therapies."

law/sms (AFP, dpa)

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