LGBTQ+ advocates and survivors of LGBTQ+ conversion practices have welcomed the passage of the Victorian Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020.
The Victorian Government Bill, which criminalises LGBTQ+ conversion practices that cause injury and opens up pathways for education, investigation and healing for conversion survivors, passed with 27 to 9 votes in favour and the support of key opposition and cross-bench MPs.
The Bill also introduced new protections for people born with intersex variations into Victorian anti-discrimination laws.
“This law sends a powerful message that LGBTQ+ people are whole and valid just as they are, and establishes powerful mechanisms to deal with incredibly harmful practices that LGBTQ+ people have, for too long, endured across Victoria,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“From consent-based facilitation, investigation and enforcement action by the Equal Opportunity Commission, to criminal penalties for serious injury – this legislation provides a range of avenues to prevent harm and bring perpetrators to justice.”
Commencing in 12 months from its assent, the law will allow survivors to bring a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, which can also initiate its own investigation into serious and systemic cases of conversion practices, and take enforcement action to prevent further harm.
Causing injury or serious injury to someone by targeting them with practices aimed at changing or suppressing their sexual orientation or gender identity will also be criminalised.
Nathan Despott from survivor-led advocacy group Brave Network welcomed the reforms, which follow years of advocacy by survivors.
“These legislative changes have been hard-won, with survivors of conversion practices re-living their trauma in order to secure passage of this world-leading legislation. The ground-work often involved painfully sharing our stories and insights repeatedly over several years,” said Mr Despott.
“The passing of this legislation sends a strong message that fear-mongering and the spreading of misinformation, which LGBTQA+ people have been forced to endure every time protective or equalising legislation has been debated, will no longer fool, or be accepted by, the Australian public,” added Mr Despott.
The Bill’s passage follows the introduction of laws to ban forms of conversion in Queensland and the ACT.
“We were delighted to see cross-party support in the Victorian Parliament for this life-saving legislation,” said Ms Brown. “While no law can fix a complex social problem on its own, this law is a great step towards ending the incredible harm caused by LGBTQ+ conversion practices and paves the way for positive reform in other parts of Australia.”
“This vote is a recognition that equality for LGBTIQ+ people can, and should be, supported by conservative and progressive parties alike.”
Advocates have called on all Australian states and territories to follow Victoria’s lead by comprehensively banning conversion practices.
“Victoria now has a gold-standard law against conversion practices which will stop these cruel practices and save the lives of LGBTIQ+ people,” said Just.equal spokesperson, Rodney Croome. “We urge other states and territories to follow Victoria’s lead.”