Greece banned conversion therapy, or a widely criticized method of attempting to change one’s sexual or gender identity, for minors on Wednesday.
The bill, which passed in parliament, will impose hefty fines and even prison terms on psychologists and other mental health professionals who conduct conversion therapy on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) minors without their explicit consent.
Additionally, advertising any kind of conversion therapy is forbidden under the law.
Conversion therapy, often dubbed “reparative therapy” has been discounted by psychologists and human rights experts across the world as completely ineffective. Research has repeatedly shown that there is no method of changing one’s sexuality.
Greece bans conversion therapy, advertising practice
As the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the US, notes, “minors are especially vulnerable” to the practice, and it can have tragic impacts on those who receive it, such as “depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”
Speaking to Parliament, Health Minister Thanos Plevris stated that “there were some false treatments that stated that when a minor has a different sexual orientation, his parents could supposedly proceed with ‘treatments’ for this child to ‘return to normality.'”
“Obviously these treatments not only are not a therapy but they are not supported scientifically,” he continued.
In 2020, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, recommended that conversion therapy, especially for minors, be banned. France, Canada, and New Zealand banned the practice this year.
He stated that the practice is “inherently discriminatory” and amounts to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and that depending on the severity or physical or mental pain and suffering inflicted to the victim, [it] may amount to torture.”
Calls to ban the practice have intensified in recent years, particularly in the US and Europe. In 2021, lawyers Ilias Trispiotis and Craig Purshouse argued that the practice should be banned in Europe, as it violates Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits degrading treatment.
The bill comes as the country has released a legislative strategy to improve gender equality in Greece. The country passed a landmark set of laws aimed at strengthening women’s rights in 1983.
In 1983, Greece signed and ratified the landmark “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” which is one of the most progressive of such laws in Europe.
Country also aims to ban surgeries on intersex infants
The 1983 legislation totally reformed Greece’s previously oppressive family laws, as it provided for gender equality in marriage, abolished the dowry, expanded the divorce law, decriminalized adultery, and provided equal rights to children of unwed parents.
While progressive for the time, the law lacked in the areas of domestic abuse and LGBT- related issues.
Plevris stated that the country would also look to ban surgical procedures on infant genitals of those born intersex or who otherwise have ambiguous genitalia and chromosomes.
Many intersex individuals have spoken out against such procedures, which effectively decide one’s own sex before they are even old enough to understand the concept. Additionally, when one is in puberty, hormones may not match with medical decisions made in infancy.
Health minister Thanos Plevris and deputy Mina Gaga signed a ministerial decree in January to remove such restrictions. Current criteria debarring individuals from donating blood will no longer take one’s sexual orientation into consideration.