Despite many believing the controversial practice of conversion therapy to be akin to brainwashing and have no basis in science, it is still legal throughout Europe. Yesterday Malta became the first country to ban the process after a motion was unanimously approved by Parliament.
The bill came under a new Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act. Now legally anyone found guilty of trying to "change, repress or eliminate a person's sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression" will face fines or a jail sentence.
The Guardian reported that, "Practising medical professionals who prescribe "gay cure" therapies could face fines of up to €10,000 (£8510) and a jail term of up to a year, with lesser fines of €1,000 to €5,000 and shorter sentences available to judges in other cases."
In January of last year NHS doctors were told to stop recommending patients to gay conversion therapy and signed a joint statement with the Royal College of Psychiatrists and other therapy and counseling institutions to condemn the practice as unethical and unscientific. Despite this it still remains legal in the UK.
LGBT charity Stonewall say of conversion therapy that, "No one should be told their identity is something that can be cured." Alarmingly their 2009 survey of 1,300 mental health professionals in the UK found that more than 200 of them had prescribed a form of conversion therapy to patients referred to them via GPs and NHS practices.
Malta's psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and counsellors released a statement that they were "very proud to have played an integral part in the drafting of this bill" and ending an "inhumane" practice.