16th December 2015, 8:07 PM by Nick Duffy
Minister Helena Dalli presented the bill for its first reading this week
Malta could become the first EU country to outlaw ‘gay cure’ therapy, under a government bill submitted this week.
The country’s government yesterday unveiled a ‘Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression’ bill – which would outlaw so-called ‘conversion’ therapy.
The practise of attempting to ‘cure’ someone’s sexuality is considered pointless and damaging by most experts – but is yet to be outlawed in many country.
Malta’s Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties Helena Dalli yesterday presented the bill for its first reading in Parliament – with the aim of prohibiting LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ as a deceptive and harmful act.
A public consultation has also launched on the issue, which will remain open for a month.
The consultation website explains: “Conversion therapy seeks to change and, or to repress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and, or gender expression.
“The international community of professionals in education, social work, health, mental health and counselling has determined that there is no evidence towards the validity or effectiveness of so called conversion therapy.
“On the contrary, it is dangerous to the individual’s mental and physical health, in some cases leading to suicide.
“Therefore Government is seeking to protect these individuals from harmful practices by enacting a Bill which will criminalize conversion therapy. To date, four US states have banned conversion therapy. Should this Bill become law,
“Malta will be the first European country to criminalise such practice.”
The UK Parliament is set to consider a private member’s bill on the issue – but the UK government says it has “no plans” to legislate.
Speaking last month, Health Minister Jane Ellison acknowledged the harms caused for gay cure therapy, and praised a Memorandum of Understanding banning referrals within NHS England.
However, she added that the government would not be pressing ahead with legislation on the issue, saying: “I fully understand the concerns about gay conversion therapy as they’ve been expressed, but the government has no current plans to ban or restrict it via legislation.
“We don’t either have a plan to introduce statutory regulation for psychotherapies but I say that in the knowledge that it is a position that is challenged – and one to which I will go away and reflect after the debate.”
The UK lost its ranking as the best country on Europe on LGBT rights earlier this year, outstripped by Malta – which has made great strides on LGBT equality.
It recently pioneered another piece of landmark legislation, outlawing surgery on children born intersex until they are old enough to consent.
Malta’s public consultation runs until January 15.