People who offer so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for gay and transgender people face up to a year in prison under a bill being put before the Dutch parliament.
The bill is sponsored by coalition parties D66 and VVD, along with opposition groups Labour (PvdA), GroenLinks, the Socialists (SP) and animal rights party PvdD, giving them enough seats for a majority.
The law would provide for fines of up to €22,500 and a jail sentence of one year, or two years for repeat offenders. Practitioners also face being struck off from their professional register.
The previous cabinet had faced calls from parliament to ban the practice, but ministers said they wanted to commission research into the implications for people’s rights, including the freedom to choose one’s own therapy.
Around 15 people and organisations are thought to offer conversion therapy in the Netherlands, mainly in orthodox religious communities, according to a study commissioned by MPs in 2020.
LGBT rights group COC Nederland welcomed the move to ban the practice. ‘It’s not an illness to be who you are and nobody should let themselves be persuaded that they need to be “cured”,’ said chair Astrid Oosenbrug. ‘LHBTI conversion is a fairy-tale that destroys people.’
One person who had undergone conversion therapy told NOS in 2020 that a ban was unlikely to be effective. ‘It’s easy to hide the purpose of a therapy. You just call it “treatment for depression” or something similar.
‘And it’s unlikely that many “victims” will complain. In most cases they want to put their homosexuality behind them. That was the case for me.’
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