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First law banning conversion therapies passed in Switzerland

Neuchâtel, in western Switzerland, is the 16th-biggest of the 26 cantons, by population. Keystone / Alessandro Della Bella

Neuchâtel has become the first of the country’s 26 cantons to pass a law banning the controversial therapies. A similar motion at the national level is pending in parliament.

The law passed on Tuesday by Neuchâtel’s parliament will make it illegal to propose treatment to change sexual orientation in the canton. Inciting others to change their gender identity will also become a criminal offence, punishable by a fine.

“This is a really strong signal. These practices, which we hope are very infrequent, are extremely damaging for those concerned. They have devastating effects because they are based on the mistaken idea that homosexuality or transgender identities are sicknesses that need to be cured,” said Florence Nater, a cantonal government minister.

+ Gay conversion therapies take a toll in Switzerland

Authorities in Neuchâtel say it is difficult to gauge the exact extent of the problem in the canton, since no statistics are available.

At the Swiss level, some 14,000 people are estimated to have undergone some form of conversion therapy.

Such procedures are banned in various countries, including Germany and France. In Switzerland, several cantons have passed motions, but not yet laws, in favour of such a ban – as has one of the two houses of parliament at the national level.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR