Germany may ban 'conversion therapies' for gays

BERLIN: Germany is considering a ban of so-called "conversion therapies" aimed at changing the sexual orientation of gay people, the health minister said on Tuesday.

"Homosexuality is not an illness and therefore there is no need for therapy," said Health Minister Jens Spahn, expressing support for a prohibition that his department and the Justice Ministry are working on.

Conversion therapy, which can include hypnosis or electric shocks, is based on the belief that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is a curable mental illness.

It is normally carried out by relatives, life coaches, therapists or religious counsellors.

"We have to convince parents to accept their children the way they are and we must take away the worries from young people to feel ashamed," Spahn said.

"That's why in my view we need a strong message from the state and a legislation to protect homosexuals from pathologisation, discrimination, stigmatism and therefore from suffering."

In Germany, there are an estimated 1,000 attempts a year to change the sexual orientation of homosexuals, according to the Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation, a Berlin-based organization that fights discrimination.

Spahn, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU), pointed to two recent studies showing a ban was medically necessary and legally possible.

One of the studies concluded that the sexual orientation of a human being could not be changed through therapy, and that such methods could harm the soul of patients.

Germany's Lesbian and Gay Association welcomed the proposal, saying treatments can cause isolation, mental illness and suicide.

Malta, Ecuador and just over a dozen U.S. states have outlawed conversion therapy, according to the ILGA, a network of LGBT+ rights groups. Countries including Britain, New Zealand and Australia are considering bans.

Some 700,000 Americans have been forced to undergo a form of conversion therapy, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California.

In Britain, a fifth of gay, lesbian and bisexual people who have tried to change their sexuality have attempted suicide, according to a study released in February.