Belgium bans conversion therapy with landmark parliament vote

Belgium has become the eighth European country and twelfth nation globally to criminalise the practice.

A photo of the flag of Belgium (Black, yellow and red)
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On Thursday, July 20, Belgium adopted a ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ after MPs in the lower house of parliament voted in favour of the move. The new legislation protecting adults and minors from practices aimed at changing or suppressing one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is the eighth of its kind in Europe and twelfth worldwide.

The bill was tabled by the Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity, Marie-Colline Leroy, alongside Justice Minister Vincent Ban Quickenborne. Under it, carrying out conversion practices can be punished by a prison sentence of up to two years, and/or a fine of up to €2,400. Judges can also impose working bans of up to five years if the practice takes place in a professional context, and suggesting or advertising the services is also prohibited.

Conversion therapy has been widely discredited by medical professionals, with both the European Parliament and an independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council recommending countries ban the practice.


Speaking to Belgian outlet VRT TV, one victim said, “I was brainwashed by manipulation, as if it was better not to be gay.”

The 21-year-old was counselled by a pastor in an evangelical Pentecostal church, explaining, “Sometimes the priest would say the evil spirit was gone. It would come back when I had sexual thoughts or longed to meet a man. He said I would become a murderer or prostitute, but it had nothing to do with homosexuality.”

He continued: “I didn’t realise what was happening at first. I had suppressed my homosexuality since childhood. So that Christian environment and the priest doing the conversion therapy felt like a safe, comforting haven. I didn’t want to accept myself.”


Belgium is the latest nation to introduce a conversion therapy ban, following the likes of Cyprus and Iceland who did so earlier this year. The practice remains legal in Ireland, but according to Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman, the legislation should be implemented no later than 2024.

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