Lawmakers in Mexico City on Friday 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.
Under Mexico City’s proposal, which needs further approval before taking effect, anyone who forces someone to undergo the practice can be punished with up to five years in prison.
Widely condemned by medical groups, conversion therapy can range from psychological counseling to religious practices and even electroshock therapy in an effort to change someone from gay to straight.
When a practice like conversion therapy is banned, young LGBT+ people will benefit from 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 now goes 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 found LGBT+ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report attempting suicide in the past year versus 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 defense of the mental health and dignity of LGBTQ+ people.”
Federal lawmakers in Mexico also are considering outlawing the practice nationwide, and Villanueva said he hopes the Mexico City ban will speed up the process and encourage other states to pass similar initiatives.
Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org