As they prepare to consider a ban on so-called conversion therapy, lawmakers in The Netherlands have looked at how prevalent it is in their country. They found evidence of young people being set to “holiday camps” and “workshops” in an effort to change them.
Conversion therapy is the discredited practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through psychotherapeutic means. It doesn’t work and usually does far more harm than good.
The Netherlands has a reputation for being one of the most progressive counties in the world. The European nation legalized gay sex in 1811 and, in 2001, became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. However, it has yet to ban so-called conversion therapy on minors.
If Dutch lawmakers introduce a ban, they will be following in the footsteps of legislators in Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, Taiwan and Germany.
The Dutch Health Ministry has identified 15 organizations and individuals offering conversion therapy, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Within a religious context, there are various initiatives, agencies and individuals which have emerged in this research that – in neutral terms – attempt to help people with a non-heterosexual orientation,” it said.
“There are 15 organizations or individuals who may also organize peripheral activities (e.g. holiday camps, seminars and workshops) in which a non-heterosexual orientation is regarded as problematic and attempts are made to ‘remedy’ this.”
“These practices have harmful consequences for victims and for this reason it is bad that they are being carried out,” a health ministry spokesman said.
The Health Ministry undertook a survey on LGBTQ conversion-therapy and found 30% of those who responded had experienced some form of the discredited ‘treatment’. Nearly all of those who been through the experience said they’d subsequently suffered psychological problems, such as depression and feeling suicidal.
Local LGBTQ groups have responded by saying the government should act quickly to implement a ban. Lawmakers say a second study will now be undertaken before they decide on a precise course of action.
The Netherlands is not the only country to identify residential ‘camps’ where young people are sent in damaging efforts to turn them heterosexual. In South Africa, in a high-profile, notorious case, a young man named Raymond Buys died in 2011 after suffering appalling homophobic violence at a camp that specialized in turning “boys into men.”
In the US, 20 states have now banned conversion therapy on minors. The most recent was Virginia in March.
Democratic US Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, has said that if he wins victory in the general election in November, he will move to ban conversion therapy nationwide via enactment of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act.