'Gay Cure' Conversion Therapy Banned In Malta: Becomes First European Country To Unanimously Approve Legislation Outlawing Controversial Procedure

Malta, a small European island country, has banned all types of "gay cures" or conversion therapies that promise to straighten the sexual orientation of a homosexual person. Any medical professional found guilty of pedaling such solutions could be jailed under the newly passed law.

While Americans continue to remain skeptical of persistent claims about Republican President-elect Donald Trump's second-in-command, Mike Pence, and his alleged support to conversion therapy. Malta, a relatively small but vibrant country in the European Union, has legally banned any and all types of "gay cures" or conversion therapies. The archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast will penalize anyone found guilty of trying to change, repress or eliminate a person's sexual orientation. The penalty will start with a steep fine and might culminate in the guilty facing jail time, along with suspension or cancellation of his or her medical practitioner's license.

The parliament of Malta voted unanimously in Valetta to approve a bill outlawing attempts to "cure" homosexuals of their sexuality, reported the Guardian. Politicians jointly labeled gay cure therapy as "deceptive and harmful" to the community, and observed that attempting to forcibly alter anyone's sexual orientation is plain wrong.

Under the recently enacted law, titled "Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act," 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. Under the law, medical professionals who practice conversion therapies or prescribe "gay cure" therapies are liable to be fined.

Lesser fines begin from $1,000 and go up to $5,000. Moreover, the judge can attach a jail sentence. However, repeat offenders or gross violation of the law could invite fines up to $10,000. Offenders could also be sent to jail for up to five years if the judge deems the crime worthy of the strict punishment.

According to the law "no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort." Besides banning gay cures, Malta officially lowered to 16 the age at which people can request a change in gender without their parents' approval.

The new ruling will see Malta retain its position as one of the most progressive places in the world for LGBT rights, reported Pink News. Since the Socialist government's election in 2013, the Mediterranean island nation has witnessed the launch of several progressive social reforms. Malta has been twice named the European country that best respects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people by the advocacy group ILGA-Europe.

Multiple professional bodies, including the Malta Chamber of Psychologists, the Maltese Association of Psychiatry, the Malta Association of Family Therapy, among other, openly welcomed the law's swift and unanimous enactment. Speaking about the legislation, the various associations jointly released a statement that read:
"[We] openly disapprove of practices are which are harmful to people in our community. Not only does it reject a group of individuals on the basis of unfound prejudice and lack of tolerance for diversity, but also because it impinges on the international recognition of LGBTIQ rights. As a body we promote respect and equality for all persons, and are determined to continue working towards ensuring our clients can enjoy as safe a therapeutic experience as they deserve."
Conversion therapies or gay cures have long been a hotly debated topic. Supporters of the therapies argue simple, non-threatening and non-invasive techniques like common psychological or counseling sessions are developed and customized to help people "voluntarily change their sexual orientation." Needless to say, the practice is widely condemned. Psychiatrists and psychotherapy bodies across the world routinely denounce these techniques, claiming they are dubious, unethical, and dangerous.
Interestingly, Vice President-elect Mike Pence recently attempted to dismiss his alleged support to gay cures and other controversial conversion therapies.

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