Germany moves to ban gay 'conversion therapy'

The German government has introduced legislation that would see "conversion therapy" made punishable with up to a year in prison and fines of up to 30,000 euros ($33,000)

The German government on Wednesday signed off on a new law banning "conversion therapies" designed to force heterosexuality on homosexuals.

The legislation, set to be introduced next year, would see the practice made punishable with up to a year in prison and fines of up to 30,000 euros ($33,000).

"Homosexuality is not an illness, so the word 'therapy' is misleading," said health minister Jens Spahn, the architect of the law.

Once it is approved, Germany -- where there are an estimated 1,000 attempts a year to "re-educate" gay people -- would be only the second European country with such a ban after Malta passed similar legislation in 2016.

Spahn said that he wanted the ban to be as far-reaching as possible, adding that the so-called therapies often caused "severe physical and psychological damage".

"A ban is also an important sign for all those struggling with their sexuality: it is ok to be as you are," said the health minister.

Aside from prison sentences for practitioners, the new law will impose fines for those offering or advertising "conversion" practices.

It could also potentially make parents and teachers liable if they are ruled to have neglected their duty of care.

So-called conversion therapies for minors will be outlawed entirely, while those for adults will be illegal if carried out against the will of the subject, for example with the use of force or threats.

Medical experts consider psychological or spiritual interventions to change someone's sexual orientation pseudo-scientific, ineffective and often harmful.

The most controversial techniques involve administering electric shocks as subjects view images of homosexual acts or injections of the male hormone testosterone.

In March 2018, the European parliament passed a resolution condemning the practice and urging member states to ban it.

The German government has introduced legislation that would see "conversion therapy" made punishable with up to a year in prison and fines of up to 30,000 euros ($33,000)