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Virginia just became the 20th state in the US to ban traumatising conversion therapy for vulnerable minors

Emma Powys Maurice March 3, 2020

Virginia governor Ralph Northam, who has just passed a bill outlawing conversion therapy for minors (Alex Edelman/Getty)

Virginia has just become the first southern state to ban the widely discredited practise of conversion therapy for minors.

So-called ‘conversion therapy’ refers to the dangerous and discredited practise of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. All efforts to do so have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organisation for decades.

The harmful practise is often compared to torture and has been linked to higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction.

On Monday governor Ralph Northam signed a bill outlawing the ‘therapy’ for anyone under the age of 18, making Virginia the 20th US state to do so.

“This issue is personal for me, as a paediatric neurologist who has cared for thousands of children,” said Northam in a statement to the Washington Post.

“Conversion therapy is not only based in discriminatory junk-science, it is dangerous and causes lasting harm to our youth. No one should be made to feel wrong for who they are — especially not a child. I’m proud to sign this ban into law.”

The ban takes effect on July 1, and will not apply to adults who choose to undergo the therapy themselves. Violation of the ban would be grounds for disciplinary action by state health regulators.

The new legislation is part of a growing global momentum to ban conversion therapy, as more than 60 associations of doctors, psychologists or counsellors around the world condemned the treatment as “ineffective and harmful to mental health”.

So far only Brazil, Ecuador and Malta have national bans on conversion therapy, but Canada, Chile, Mexico and Germany are among the countries seeking to outlaw the treatment.

LGBT+ advocate and lawyer Lucas Ramon Mendos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that he believes 2020 could be a turning point.

“The main driving force [for reform] is survivors with their testimonies coming forwards,” he said. “A lot of awareness is being created through their testimony.”

More: conversion therapy, Virginia

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