Europe comes out against conversion ‘therapy’

Today the European Parliament at last came out against the discredited “therapy” that claims to help gay people become straight or bi people become gay or straight, as it adopted its Annual report on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU.

The report assesses how fundamental rights were implemented in the EU in 2016, and what must still be done to reach the standards laid down in the Charter of Fundamental RightsThis year’s report makes reference to LGBTI rights, condemning all forms of discrimination against LGBTI people (para. 62: “Condemns all form of discrimination against LGBTI people; encourages the Member States to adopt laws and policies to combat homophobia and transphobia;”). Astute readers will note that this seems to skirt around the question of action to challenge prejudice and discrimination against both bi and intersex people.

It contains key provisions on the role of education against LGBTI-phobia (para. 60: “Calls on the Commission to share Member States’ best practices for addressing gender stereotypes at school;”). It also condemns pathologisation of trans people and calls for legal gender recognition procedures that are quick, accessible and transparent (para. 64: “Deplores the fact that transgender people are still considered mentally ill in the majority of Member States and calls on those states to review their national mental health catalogues and to develop alternative stigma-free access models, ensuring that medically necessary treatment remains available for all transpeople; deplores the fact that several Member States today still impose requirements on transgender people such as medical intervention in order to have the changed gender recognised (including in passports and official identity documents) and forced sterilisation as a condition for gender reassignment; notes that such requirements are clearly human rights violations; calls on the Commission to provide guidance to Member States on the best models for legal gender recognition in Europe; calls on Member States to recognise change of gender and to provide access to quick, accessible and transparent legal gender recognition procedures without medical requirements such as surgery or sterilisation or psychiatric consent;”).

Furthermore, Parliament reiterates the need to fight discrimination against intersex people, especially so-called ‘sex normalising’ surgeries, which are medically unnecessary (para. 66: “Calls on the Commission to collect data on human rights violations faced by intersex people in all areas of life and to provide guidance to Member States on best practices to protect the fundamental rights of intersex people; regrets that genital ‘normalisation’ surgery for intersex children is still in practice in EU Member States despite not being medically necessary, even though medical procedures on children cause long-term psychological trauma for them;”).

The Parliament also called for the adoption of the proposal of the Horizontal Directive, still blocked in the European Council (para. 50). This Directive would protect EU citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientation in all areas of life, including education and provision of goods and services.

An amendment passed by a clear majority urged the Commission and Member States to guarantee freedom of movement for same-sex couples and their families (see amendment 7)

Terry Reintke MEP, co-president and Malin Björk MEP, vice-president of the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup, said: “Despite great progress in many countries over the last decade, discrimination against LGBTI people is still a reality in the EU. LGBTI people should be free from discrimination, bullying, and violence. Their right to self-determination should be guaranteed, and their bodily integrity protected.

“This report is a key assessment for the safeguarding of fundamental rights in the European Union. We now count on the European Council and the European Commission to keep working on securing and protecting the rights of LGBTI people in all areas of life.”

The Parliament condemned the practice of LGBTI conversion therapies for the first time ever with a large majority (435 +, 109 -, 70 o) (see amendment 8).

Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, vice-president of the Intergroup in LGBTI at the European Parliament, commented: “Currently only the UK, Malta and some regions in Spain have explicitly banned LGBTI conversion therapies. The UN Committee Against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Human Rights Committee have already condemned the practice of conversion therapy in several countries.

Today, for the first time ever, the European Parliament is taking a stance against LGBTI conversion therapies. This report is an example of how the EU can be at the forefront of the fight for fundamental rights.”

We will miss being a part of it.