Norway takes historic step to ban conversion therapy

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LGBTIQ+ rights advocates in Norway celebrate the passage of the conversion therapy bill (Photo: FRI)

Norway has emerged as the latest country to outlaw conversion therapy after its parliament passed a bill that criminalises the dangerous practice.

The bill, under development since 2019, received approval in the Storting (the Norwegian parliament) on December 12 with a resounding political majority — 85 votes in favour and 15 against.

The legislation now makes it a criminal offence to attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity using medical, alternative medicine, or religious methods.

Importantly, this prohibition applies to both minors and adults and extends to outlawing the marketing or promotion of conversion therapy.

The legislation proposes prison sentences ranging from three to six years for offenders.

Victory for Queer Rights Advocates

Hilde Arntsen, the leader of FRI – The Association for Gender and Sexuality Diversity, acknowledged the historic moment, stating, “Today we celebrate that it is finally illegal to try to convert us. We as queers have always known this – we cannot be converted.”

“Being queer is not a condition that requires therapy. We should be allowed to be who we are, and it is now illegal for anyone to try to change us,” Arntsen added.

Norway’s Progressive Stance on LGBTIQ+ Rights

Norway has consistently positioned itself as one of the most progressive European countries concerning LGBTIQ+ rights. It set a global precedent by enacting an anti-discrimination law explicitly including sexual orientation in 1981.

Furthermore, it legalised same-sex marriage in 2009 and, in 2016, became the fourth European country to permit the change of legal gender based solely on self-determination.

In 2022, Norway’s Prime Minister formally apologised to the country’s LGBTIQ+ community for the past government persecution of gay men.

Global Context: A Growing Ban on Conversion Therapy

While Norway joins the ranks of progressive nations taking a stand against conversion therapy, similar bans, primarily for minors, exist in countries such as Albania, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Greece, France, Germany, Iceland, Malta, New Zealand, and parts of Spain and the United States.

Conversion therapy is rooted in the false belief that homosexuality or being transgender is immoral, an illness, or a deviation. The methods employed can range from prayer and exorcism to counselling, psychotherapy, hypnosis, and even the use of electric shocks.

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