Malta set to ban gay conversion therapy as Bill passes final hurdle

Bill to ban gay ‘conversion therapy’ passes through committee stage with added layers to ensure it won’t apply to regular psychological treatment

Gay conversion therapy is one step closer to being outlawed, after a Bill to criminalise the practice passed through committee stage tonight.

The Bill, which enjoys the unanimous support of all MPs, will see people who attempt to change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation receive a fine ranging between €1,000 and €5,000 or a jail term of five months.

The penance will be harsher for professionals – with fines envisaged between €2,000 and €10,000 or imprisonment of up to a year.

It will now only need to be formally approved in the third reading before passing into law.

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli agreed to tweak the law to completely clarify that the law will not see psychiatrists, councellors and psychologists hauled up to court for psychological treatment that could be legally defined as “conversion therapy”.

Psychiatrist David Mamo warned that the original Bill was too vague and insisted that it include a phrase that specifically excludes all professional services intended to reduce psychological pain.

“School councellors are particularly concerned that they could be charged in court if they try and help children discover their true identity,” Mamo, who is vice-president of the Maltese Association of Psychiatry, said. “Indeed, councellors have told me that they will feel scared of seeing children if this Bill passes as it is.”

He also warned that the Bill could preclude psychology professionals from treating patients suffering from OCD or schizophrenia, who are fixated on their sexual orientation or identity as part of their mental illness.

Moreover, he said that psychologists could come under fire if a patient “enters treatment on a certain level on the sexual orientation scale and exit it on another level”.

“That could be defined as the councellor having changed that person’s sexual orientation,” he warned.

Another Bill that was passed through the committee will ensure that prisoners be housed in a prison that reflects their legal gender identity.