Mexico law banning ‘conversion therapy’ would unleash ‘witch hunt,’ pro-family leader says

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A bill that would ban so-called “conversion therapy” for people with same-sex attraction could trigger a “witch hunt” against parents and health professionals in Mexico, a pro-family leader has warned.

The Justice, Diversity, and Health committees of the federal Chamber of Deputies (lower house of Congress) approved for debate a bill against “conversion therapy” already passed in the Senate. The bill is being pushed by Sen. Citlalli Hernández, a member of Mexico’s ruling political party, the National Regeneration Movement.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, lawyer Leonardo Brown explained that “this would just leave the general vote in the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies to debate whether or not this bill will be passed.”

The bill makes changes to the Federal Criminal Code and the General Law on Health and would criminalize so-called “conversion therapy.”

If enacted, the law would impose a sentence of two to six years in jail and a fine that could exceed 207,000 Mexican pesos (about $11,500) for individuals who promote, practice, teach, compel, or finance this type of therapy.

If a guardian or parent takes his or her underage child for such therapy, the penalty could be doubled to a sentence of four to 12 years in prison and the fine could be as much as 414,960 Mexican pesos (about $23,000).

Regarding the General Health Law, the bill proposes that health professionals, such as doctors and psychologists who practice this type of therapy, can be suspended for one or two years. For a second offense they could lose their license, which would prevent them from working in their field again.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, Marcial Padilla, director of the Mexican platform ConParticipación, said that, if this law is passed, “unfortunately it will turn into a witch hunt against parents and psychologists.”

Padilla explained that “this initiative includes preventing parents from taking their minor children to therapy for some type of sexual confusion.”

“This violates the individual freedom of people to make the best decisions for their emotional well-being. In addition, it violates the right of parents to raise their children,” he charged.

The director of ConParticipación said that “we hope that the federal representatives of Mexico, in the plenary session of said Chamber, correct these errors, and that what originally had a good intention and that was lost in committees can be corrected so that it achieves its hoped-for end.”

The good intention Padilla was referring to was banning the use of violence in attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The text that contains the changes approved by the committees in the Chamber of Deputies “does not” distinguish between therapy related to sexual orientation and gender identity, “so that any effort that seeks to change a homosexual adult is treated equally in the criminal code [with regard to sexual orientation], even if he freely goes [to therapy],” Padilla explained.

The director of ConParticipation stressed that “a child who says he is of the opposite sex [with regard to gender identity] could only be given affirming therapy, because the therapy that would change his situation is classified in the bill as Efforts to Correct Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”

Padilla said that the use of violence in the attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity did not remain in the bill as what defines the penalized conduct but became an aggravating factor. In other words, the therapy itself — even if given respectfully and received of the person’s own free will — is punishable.

What is ‘conversion therapy’?

“Conversion therapy” as commonly understood encompasses both psychological and scientific practices as well as religious ones that come for the most part from the American Protestant world based on evangelical anthropology, which is different from Catholic anthropology. Critics claim it shames clients, pressures them to change, and sometimes uses other abusive techniques. It is not the same as "reparative therapy."

More in Americas

The LGBT community often uses the term “conversion therapy” to denigrate and criminalize any form of help, even psychological, for people with same-sex attraction.

‘Complete nonsense’

Speaking with ACI Prensa, Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family of Mexico, said the project “is an embarrassment; it’s a completely nonsensical bill.”

Cortés, who also holds a doctorate in government and culture from the University of Navarra, stressed that the legislative proposal “violates the right to health care, violates the right to freedom of speech, religious freedom, and academic freedom.”

For the lawyer Brown, the harm that this bill can cause if it is passed by Congress “is threefold: harm to the right to the professional freedom of doctors and psychologists who do not share this vision, harm to parental authority, and to the right to freely raise children according to one’s own convictions.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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