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‘Systems of coercion’: Survivors demand stronger bans on conversion

Australian survivors of anti-LGBTQA+ conversion have written to the state and territory governments that have not yet banned such practices.

The advocates say that new conversion practice laws in Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory do not cover all concerns of survivors.

Tasmania, South Australia, and Victoria are currently considering legislation to ban conversion.

Nathan Despott from survivor advocacy group Brave Network said that for any anti-conversion legislation to be truly effective, law makers must listen to those who have been through it.   

“As the primary Australian bodies advocating for survivors, we are offering our support, research, expertise, and policy aspirations to all state governments in helping frame the best, most effective legislation to combat this insidious movement,” he said.

Queensland was the first jurisdiction to pass legislation last month, but survivor groups have been strongly critical of that bill, which does not cover informal and religious settings.

“Given more than 90 per cent of conversion practice takes place in religious settings, we regard that legislation a wasted opportunity,” Despott said. 

“The ACT legislation is vastly better.

“It covers religious settings, focuses on the intent of the practitioner, protects adults and children, and gives broad investigative powers to the ACT Human Rights Commission.”

Chris Csabs from Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts (SOGICE) Survivors said that as momentum builds around the country for more states and territories to tackle the issue, the opportunity will arise for each new bill to improve on the last.

“Our experience is that the ability of laws to stop harm against LGBTQA+ people and effect real change is critically dependent on the extent to which policymakers consult with survivors,” Csabs said.

“We have years of experience in international analysis, research, anecdotal case studies, and policy development. 

“Even well-intentioned laws can miss some nuanced ways in which conversion ideology and practices occur.”

Brave Network and SOGICE Survivors said that the complex systems of coercion and suppression in informal, unregulated contexts can often be overlooked or not fully understood by lawmakers.

Their letter to state ministers outlines ten key policy objectives that the groups want to see included in future legislation.

These include strongly affirming that LGBTQA+ people are not ‘disordered’, banning formal and informal practices, and providing counselling and redress for survivors.

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