'Being oneself is not a crime': France bans gay conversion therapy with new law

A young woman holding a rainbow flag on Republique square during the annual Gay Pride march in Paris. Credit: AP

France has introduced a new law banning the use of so-called conversion therapy to try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The National Assembly approved the legislation unanimously, voting 142 to 0 on Tuesday evening.

The legislation includes criminal penalties for people who are convicted of trying to “convert” LGBT+ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations.

It paves way for the possibility for campaigners to file civil suits on behalf of victims- seen as a breakthrough for people unable to alert police themselves or are hesitant to.

Laurence Vanceunebrock, a French politician who helped steer the law’s passage through parliament, said it would target “all those who equated an identity or a sexual orientation with sickness”.

“There is nothing to cure,” she told the National Assembly.

The new law will take effect in the next 14 days with President Emmanuel Macron’s approval.

Mr Macron hailed the legislation’s passage, tweeting: “Let’s be proud of it. Because being oneself is not a crime.”

The French parliament endorsed the new law promoted by President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party. Credit: AP

Under the legislation, sustained efforts “that aim to modify or reprimand sexual orientation or gender identity” and which impact the physical or mental health of victims are punishable by up to two years in jail and £25,000 in fines.

The punishment can increase to three years’ imprisonment and fines of around £37,000 for attempts involving under-18s, or other particularly vulnerable people.

Therapies to change a person’s sexual orientation are already prohibited in multiple US states and the US Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico.

Proposals for bans against the practice, widely condemned by medical professionals, have also been put forward in Britain along with dozens of other countries.

In 2018, Theresa May's government promised to end conversion therapy as part of its LGBT equality plan, with Boris Johnson announcing in 2020 that the plans would be brought forward.

Under the proposals, conversion therapy will be banned in England and Wales for under-18s, and adults who are vulnerable and not able to properly consent.

A bill is expected to be drawn up by spring, with the aim of legislating by May.

In 2018, ITV News went undercover at Winners Chapel, where a pastor told our reporter that the devil had made him gay and offered him intensive prayer. 

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand has been assured by government sources that this sort of religious practice would be included in the scope of the proposed ban

Watch ITV News' report undercover report from 2018 where a pastor told our reporter 'the devil had made him gay'

Our undercover reporter spent two months attending the church in Dartford- one of the largest in Britain - where several pastors made clear they could help stop him being gay.

He met four in total, with a hidden camera capturing his pre-arranged appointment with Pastor Gbenga Samuel.

Over the course of their meeting, Pastor Gbenga told our reporter "something shifted" in the process of his life, "which God can fix".

He claimed that messages of acceptance we see and hear in modern society about gay people have been "carefully scripted" by Satan, drawing a comparison with the way Germans were brainwashed by Nazi propaganda.In response to our filming, Winners' Chapel said they would conduct an internal investigation into our allegations. But they denied that they engaged in any form of conversion therapy.