An estimated that 1,000 people are subjected to conversion therapy in Germany every year (Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation); however, a new draft law, written by Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn could stop conversion therapy in its tracks. Conversion therapy is the practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual using spiritual or psychological techniques. Treatments range from counseling to hypnosis to electric shock and all treatments have been widely proven to be ineffective and harmful to those who undergo them. Only four countries worldwide have bans on conversion therapy, and Germany joins Britain and Canada in the beginning stages of a ban.
Germany’s ban would carry a 30,000 euros (about $33,489) fine for anyone advertising or offering conversion therapy. Anyone who is caught coercing, deceiving or threatening anyone over 18 to participate would get sentenced to a year in prison. Jens Spahn said that the risks conversion therapy poses to people’s health outweigh others concerns about religious freedom. There is no set date for the law to be considered by parliament but a spokesperson for Germany’s ministry of health said that the final vote is likely to be next year.
Jens Spahn has openly spoken out against conversion therapy before, but he wrote about the ban in an emailed statement, “Homosexuality is not a disease. Therefore, even the term therapy is misleading, (…) This supposed therapy makes you sick and not healthy.” Participants in conversion therapy face a significant suicide increase. The Trevor Project found that 42% of LGBTQ+ youth who underwent conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the past year. Spahn hopes that this law against conversion therapy in Germany will send a powerful message, “A ban is also an important social signal to anyone who struggles with their homosexuality: you are okay the way you are.”
By Eliana Sauer