Parliament on Thursday passed a bill criminalising conversion therapy on LGBT persons, while also allowing for the continued provision of advice to homosexuals.
The legislative proposal, sponsored by Akel MP Giorgos Kokoumas, passed with 36 votes for. But a last-minute amendment – sponsored by Disy and backed by Diko, Elam and Dipa – also passed.
Under that amendment, priests would still be allowed to continue running confessions, and giving advice to homosexuals.
The amendment came about after lobbying from the Church.
While parliament was in session, outside a group calling itself ‘Queer Collective’ were demonstrating in favour of the bill.
The new law effectively amends the penal code, in that it now designates as a criminal offence any practice, technique or service by any person aiming to convert, suppress or obliterate sexual orientation, gender identity or the gender expression of any individual.
It also criminalises these activities where this is the outcome of an individual being referred by their legal guardian. Advertising of such conversion therapies/techniques is also prohibited.
Speaking on the House floor, Akel’s Koukoumas said conversion therapies are practices constituting physical and/or mental violence, where the main victims are minors and teenagers.
Anyone found guilty of practicing such conversion therapies techniques is liable to imprisonment for up two years and/or a fine not exceeding €5,000.
Where such practices are done on a minor, prison sentences go up to three years, and the fine to €10,000.
Advertising conversion therapies is punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a fine up to €5,000.
Permitted will be the provision of advisory, psychological, and medical services “relating to the exploration, free development and/or affirmation of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, as well as the provision of scientifically established clinical practices by specialised health professionals, provided these are carried out with the purpose of dealing with situations related to the sexual health of individuals.”
A host of other amendments to the bill had been tabled, with some passing and others not.
In his remarks, independent MP Andreas Themistocleous said the slew of changes demonstrate that the bill had been done “on the fly” and not properly thought out.
He said it was the first time the Church had been subjected to such a targeted attack. He opposed the bill, saying it “denies the right to an adult to make available their body, spirit and soul as they see fit.”
In a statement later, Accept LGBTI welcomed passage of the bill.
“We’ve done it!” read their statement. “Pseudo-conversion therapies are criminalised across the board.”
The group thanked Akel’s Koukoumas for tabling the bill, as well as other MPs who did not agree to “loopholes” being inserted.
“We thank you all for standing by our side. Onward. Our next goal: civil marriages/adoption and legal recognition of gender identity.”