Press Release

Belgium bans conversion practices that discourage, suppress or change people's gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation

Today, Parliament approved a law banning conversion practices. Conversion practices are practices that aim to physically or psychologically discourage, suppress or change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Anyone who performs, promotes or pressures someone to undergo a conversion practice can now be fined, imprisoned or banned from working. This is contained in a new law drafted by Marie-Colline Leroy, Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity, and Vincent Van Quickenborne, Minister of Justice.

The Federal Parliament decided today that conversion practices will no longer be allowed in our country. Conversion practices will be banned, as well as the attempt, incitement, offering and advertising of conversion practices. These offences are now punishable by up to two years' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 2,400 euros. The court can also impose a professional disqualification of up to five years. 

              What are conversion practices?

Conversion practices are intended to discourage, suppress or change a person's gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. It does not matter whether they are carried out by medically trained persons or not, whether they are carried out for payment or free of charge, whether there is a special relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, and whether the victim has consented or not. What matters is the intent of the perpetrator. 

It may involve psychological pressure, exploiting the person's sense of shame, or a pseudo-medical form. Consider practices that require the victim to take illegal or unlawful treatments or drugs, such as antidepressants, or force the victim to undergo EMDR or electroconvulsive therapy. Some practices involve physical harm. Victims may be subjected to physical violence and degrading treatment.

              A new step towards a more inclusive society

Secretary of State Marie-Colline Leroy: "There is no scientific basis for conversion practices. On the contrary, scientists agree that these practices are particularly harmful to the mental and physical health of the victims, as well as being stigmatising and discriminatory. It was therefore high time that our country introduced this ban. I would like to thank my predecessor, Sarah Schlitz, and all the civil society organisations that have been calling for a ban on conversion practices for a long time, for all the preparatory work they have done. Thanks to them, Belgium is now taking another step towards a more inclusive society where people can be who they are without fear or shame. "

Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne: "In some ultra-conservative families and extremely religious circles, there is still a belief that sexual orientation is changeable. Not only is this a scientifically flawed assumption, it is also contrary to the values of our free society where everyone is allowed to be themselves. Conversion practices can also cause serious physical injury, death or lifelong trauma. With this law, we make it clear that our society does not tolerate such practices and that they will be severely punished.”

With this ban, Belgium is responding to a call from the European Parliament to ban conversion practices. A number of countries have already introduced legal bans on conversion practices, including Malta, Germany and France. Belgium is now joining them.