The deputies must give, this Tuesday, their final green light for the adoption of the LREM bill prohibiting “conversion therapies”, practices aimed at imposing heterosexuality on lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) people.
The text carried by the presidential majority, in particular by LREM deputy Laurence Vanceunebrock, creates a new offense in the Penal Code punishing these practices with two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros. The penalties may increase to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros in the event of aggravating circumstances.
“The antithesis of our republican values”
Theoretically, “conversion therapies” are already punishable via a large number of offences: moral harassment, violence or illegal practice of medicine, etc. Proponents of the proposed law, which has a broad consensus, argue, however, that this new offense will raise awareness of the illegality of these practices. It is also supposed to provide a stronger legal basis for prosecution.
The text has the unreserved support of the government which sees, in “conversion therapy”, “the antithesis of our republican values”, as stated by Elisabeth Moreno, Minister Delegate for Equality between Women and Men . “Conversion therapy” can take the form of exorcism sessions, internships or electroshock, among a myriad of abuses that have lasting psychological or even physical repercussions on the people, often young, who are victims.
According to a report by Laurence Vanceunebrock, co-authored with her “rebellious” colleague Bastien Lachaud, the expression “conversion therapies” was born in America in the 1950s. They have no scientific or medical basis. There is no national survey in France to assess the extent of the phenomenon. In 2019, parliamentarians mentioned around a hundred “recent” cases. Several reports or testimonies have recently been the subject of strong media coverage, and artists such as Eddy de Pretto or Hoshi have urged politicians to put the fight against these practices on the parliamentary agenda.
By adopting this text, French parliamentarians are following in the footsteps of a European movement since countries such as Germany, Malta and Spanish regions have already legislated on the subject, soon to be joined by Belgium, the Netherlands or Great Britain. French deputies and senators had reached an agreement on the text. But if at first reading, it had been the subject of a unanimous vote in the National Assembly on October 6, it had not been the same in the Senate, dominated by the right.
Twenty-eight senators against
However, the vote was largely favorable to the upper house: 305 senators voted in favor of the bill, 28 against, all from the Les Républicains group, including their leader Bruno Retailleau. He subsequently assured that he was “obviously against conversion therapy which aims to force homosexual people to change their orientation”. But he had justified his vote by the fact that the text “also evokes gender identity, in the name of which people ask to change sex, which goes far beyond the question of the protection of homosexual people”.
As with the bills on professional equality between men and women, the extension of the legal duration of abortion or free contraception for women under 25, the vote of this text allows the majority, in this end of the legislature, to give a more societal face to its balance sheet. And thus send, less than three months before the presidential election, messages to its center-left electorate, deemed more receptive to these themes. These texts are “partly the mark of Christophe Castaner as president” of the LREM group, underlines MP Roland Lescure, spokesperson for the presidential movement. But, he believes, “these are not left-wing Christmas lights on a right-wing Christmas tree: these are real strategic choices”.