France outlaws ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBTQ people

France has made it an offense to practise 'conversion therapy', which seeks to push gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people towards heterosexuality. Those found breaking the law face two years in prison and a €30,000 fine.

An LGBT activist protests in France.
An LGBT activist protests in France. The Assemblée nationale voted to ban conversion therapy on Tuesday. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP)

The French parliament voted unanimously to ban conversion therapy on Tuesday. 

The practise which involves psychological, physical or spiritual ‘treatments’ to force gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people to adopt heteronormative behaviours, is now illegal. 

A UN expert declared in 2020 that conversion therapy could be considered an act of torture. 

“No one will be able to pretend, under the threat of criminal sanctions, to be able to cure LGBT people,” said Laurence Vanceunebrock, one of the MPs who helped push the legislation through. 

Those caught practising conversion therapy now face two years in prison and a €30,000 fine. 

In theory, this false science was already punishable under a number of French laws including moral harassement and illegal exercise of medicine. France’s cult-fighting agency was given the task of tackling conversion therapy practitioners in 2021. 

READ MORE How the pandemic in France has led to an explosion in number of sects

But the new legislation is wider-reaching and has been hailed a success by campaign groups. 

“It is the end of a struggle that has run for many years and the proof of a real awareness of the reality in France,” said Benoît Berthe, spokesperson for the Rien à guérir (Nothing to cure) group. 

He told the Marianne newspaper that the passing of the law amounted to “a great victory”. 

France’s Minister for Gender Equality had previous described conversion therapy as “the antithesis to our republican values”. 

Heralding the new law, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “Let us be proud. These undignified practices do not have any place in the republic. To be yourself it not a crime, there is nothing to cure.”

Work first began on this legislation in 2019, a year after the EU had called for conversion therapy to be banned. The practice is legal in a number of US states. The UK government said in December 2021 that it would ban conversion therapy.  

Homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder in France up until 1981 and was only decriminalised in 1982. 

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French trial opens over brutal killing of transgender sex worker

Vanesa Campos was shot in the chest in the Paris' Bois de Boulogne back in 2018. After years of waiting, her alleged killer and two associates are now finally facing trial.

People march the streets of Paris, calling for justice for Vanesa Campos.
People march the streets of Paris, calling for justice for Vanesa Campos. The sex worker's alleged killers will now finally face trial in France. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Three men went on trial in Paris on Tuesday over the killing of a transgender prostitute three years ago that drew widespread attention to rising violence against sex workers in France.

Vanesa Campos, a 36-year-old originally from Peru, was fatally shot in the chest on the night of August 16-17, 2018, in a remote section of the Bois de Boulogne, the vast forest park west of the capital that has long been a sex work zone once night falls.

Police quickly focused on a group of around a dozen men of Egyptian origin, who had staged what prosecutors called a “punitive expedition” against Campos and others who had denounced repeated robberies and assaults against sex worker and their clients by armed gangs.

Just a month before her death, Campos was among a group who hired a guard to protect them while working among dense trees with no public lighting.

The assailants were armed with tear gas, tree branches, a knife, a stun gun, and a pistol that had been stolen a week earlier from a police car while the officer was with a prostitute.

Mahmoud Kadri, 24, suspected of shooting Campos, and two associates appeared in court on murder charges and told their lawyers via translators that they “formally denied” the accusations.

Six other men, ages 23 to 34, are charged with participating in the murder — five for taking part in the assault, and a sixth for stealing the pistol.

Campos’ mother and sister, who live in Peru, are civil plaintiffs in the case along with six of her former colleagues, the bodyguard, the Acceptess-T transgender advocacy association and the Mouvement du Nid sex worker support group.

Acceptess-T in particular argues that increased violence against prostitutes stems from a 2016 law making it illegal to buy sex in France but not to sell it, shifting the criminal responsibility to clients who can be fined if caught.

While some groups say the law helps protect women from trafficking and exploitation by discouraging sex work, many working in the sector say it has made their jobs more dangerous and deprived them of income.

The trial is expected to run until January 28.