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Govt working on law to ban ‘conversion therapy’

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The Minister for Justice and Equality is working to prohibit the practice of so-called “conversion therapy” in Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Government said.

It was reacting after the Equality Rights Group raised the issue in statement in which it welcomed the UK’s decision to ban the controversial practice and called on the Gibraltar Government to do the same.

The government said it was working on draft legislation with a view to introducing relevant law before the summer.
This is independent of the UK Government’s own stance on the matter, it said.

“I am proud that this Government is already working to introduce legislation to prohibit the practice of conversion therapy, which has no place in Gibraltar,” said Samantha Sacramento, the Minister for Equality.

“The Equality Rights Group, and the public, can be reassured that work is underway to draft a Bill, with the aim to publish before the summer.”

Conversion therapy is the use of methods, such as aversive stimulation or counselling, to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation.

It is also used in an attempt to persuade trans people to alter their gender identity to correspond with the sex they had at birth.

It has been described by NHS England as “unethical and potentially harmful”.

The ERG said it had been monitoring developments in the UK after first raising the issue about a year ago.

“It is unacceptable in 2022 that any kind of sexual and gender health referrals be passed on to unqualified or partial individuals,” ERG chair Felix Alvarez said.

“It cannot be tolerated in any mental health field, and this is no exception.”

“This has been the case with issues of sexual orientation and identity in the past and which have come to our attention following concerns which have arisen.”

Mr Alvarez said it was not in the best interests of an individual undergoing confusion, anxiety or concern related to their sexual orientation or identity that they be dealt with by anyone who is not a wholly objective, impartial, accredited, qualified and trained professional.

Mr Alvarez stressed this was not a crusade against religious institutions which in the past have been the only available points of referral and which did what they could based on the knowledge and circumstances at the time.

He said that “without a doubt”, their actions had been motivated by caring, but added the approach often did not produce positive results.

The focus should be on professionalised and qualified person-centred resources free of ideological focus. 
“What is the scale of the problem in Gibraltar?” Mr Alvarez said.

“In reality, Gibraltar is a tiny jurisdiction. And the fact is that, since ERG’s pioneering work over two decades ago, wide legal advances have been achieved which, in parallel, have led to new Gibraltarian generations of citizens who, today, are free of the burden of shame, guilt and oppression which weighed so heavily on the mental health of this sector of the community.”

“But so long as any level of homophobia exists - and it unfortunately does - we will never be rid of the negative effects that some people will still suffer due to their circumstances.”

“And, however few may be affected, harm is harm and cannot be allowed to exist as an option at any level or degree.”

“Therefore, any legal loopholes or omissions that may exist in Gibraltar law allowing unqualified, untrained individuals to provide services which do not guarantee safe and neutral services or consultation on sexual orientation questions voluntarily requested by individuals must be properly sanctioned legally.”

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