The Mexico City Congress has approved a bill reforming the city’s penal code to criminalize conversion therapy.
The reform seeks to penalize practitioners of conversion therapy, and the relevant provision in the Code specifies “the criminalization of contracts, treatments, therapies or services, tasks or activities that pretend to correct the sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression that undermines free self-determination.”
Conversion therapy is intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. It employs practices that range from psychological counseling to those of a religious nature to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and minors are especially vulnerable.
According to the bill that was approved in a special session on Friday, forcing someone to undergo the therapy is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment, and a longer period where a minor is forced to undergo it.
Temístocles Villaneuva, who led the proposal as a local representative of the MORENA party, had said earlier that the criminalization of the therapy will bring wider acceptance, greater security, lower violence and formal protection to the LGBT community.
The approval makes Mexico City the first jurisdiction in the country to outlaw the therapy. Mexico’s federal legislators are considering a nationwide ban, and the capital city’s move is being hailed as a positive step for the states in the country to follow.
The UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity had called for a global ban on conversion therapy during a Human Rights Council meeting earlier this month. While only a few countries (Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan) have criminalized it so far, efforts are gaining momentum in the US (20 states and multiple cities have already banned it) and several other countries.