Vic human rights commission welcomes ban on LGBTQ-conversion practices

By Shannon Jenkins

February 5, 2021

parliament house victoria
Operation Watts was the inquiry into branch stacking and misuse of public funds in the Victorian elections. (Image: Adobe/FiledIMAGE)

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission will be able to investigate serious and systemic cases of LGBTQ change and suppression practices under a new law banning conversion ‘therapy’ in the state.

The Victorian Parliament passed the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 on Thursday night, 27 votes to nine, outlawing any conduct that attempts to change or suppress the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person.

Victorian equal opportunity and human rights commissioner Kristen Hilton said the passing of the bill was a key step toward preventing and responding to harm that continues to impact LGBTQ Victorians.

“From this day forward, Victorian law makes clear that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not a disorder, disease, illness or shortcoming,” she said in a statement.

“It affirms to all LGBTQ Victorians that they are not broken and do not need fixing — directly countering the harmful messages that sit at the core of LGBTQ change and suppression practices.

“LGBTIQ Victorians are welcome and valued members of our community, entitled to live their lives authentically and with dignity and safety.”

Hilton noted that the new law was “more than just symbolic”, as it has introduced criminal penalties — up to 10 years’ prison and large fines — as well as a civil response scheme that empowers the commission to deal with cases of conversion therapy.

The commission will be able to receive and respond to reports of conversion therapy from the community, deliver public education programs, and investigate potentially serious or systemic practices. With the consent of survivors, the commission will also be able to safely facilitate resolution to any issue raised, Hilton noted.

“We look forward to working closely with survivors and LGBTQ people of faith to develop responses that will be effective in reaching and engaging those most at risk of perpetuating or experiencing change or suppression practices,” she said.

The bill also amends the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to update the definitions of sexual orientation and gender, and to include sex characteristics as a new protected attribute. This will ensure intersex Victorians receive protection from discrimination.

According to the commission, extensive research has shown conversion therapy is ineffective and has long-term harmful impacts on survivors.

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