Mexico City: On Friday, lawmakers in Mexico City voted to ban conversion therapy, part of a small but growing movement to end the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Mexico City’s proposal dictates that anyone who forces someone to undergo the practice can be punished for up to five years in prison.
Widely condemned by medical groups, conversion therapy can range from psychological counselling to religious practices and even electroshock therapy in an effort to change someone’s sexual orientation.
When a practice like conversion therapy is banned, young LGBT+ people will benefit from the wider acceptance, said Temistocles Villanueva, a local deputy with the ruling Morena party who spearheaded the proposal
“You have greater security,” Villanueva told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“You’re going to suffer less violence, or if you are going to suffer violence, you will have the accompaniment of the authorities,” he said.
The proposal to amend the city‘s penal code was approved by a committee of deputies and has gone before the full Chamber of Deputies, where it is expected to be approved in the next two weeks.
Its approval would make the Mexican capital – a city of 8.9 million people – the first jurisdiction in the country to ban conversion therapy.
Germany prohibited conversion therapy on children in May, but worldwide, only a handful of countries – Brazil, Ecuador and Malta – have nationwide bans.
On Wednesday, however, the United Nations’ expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, called for a global ban on the practice during a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“These interventions exclusively target LGBT persons with the specific aim of interfering in their personal integrity,” Madrigal-Borloz said in a statement.
“They are inherently degrading and discriminatory and rooted in the belief that LGBT persons are somehow inferior.”
A recent U.N. survey of more than 8,000 people from 100 countries found that 98% of those who had undergone conversion therapy reported suffering psychological damage, including suicidal thoughts and depression.
A study from U.S. advocacy group the Trevor Project announced this week that LGBT+ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report suicide attempts in the past year as opposed to those who had not.
Local rights groups in Mexico welcomed the move as an important step in the socially conservative, majority Catholic country.
Alex Orue, director of the youth suicide prevention group It Gets Better Mexico, tweeted that it was “a great advance in the defence of the mental health and dignity of LGBTQ+ people.”
Federal lawmakers in Mexico also are considering to outlaw the practice nationwide, and Villanueva said that he hopes the Mexico City ban will speed up the process and encourage other states to pass similar initiatives.