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Speak Up Now: Law Review in Victoria

The Victorian Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 (‘the Act’) has often been described as "draconian", creating a chilling effect on non-medical treatment for individuals suffering distress related to gender.


We have an opportunity to contribute to a review of the legislation.


Background


The Act commenced on 17 February 2022 and must be reviewed two years after commencement. The review (by an independent person with ‘appropriate qualifications and expertise related to change or suppression practices’) must be completed within 6 months. This means the review is likely to have already commenced and should conclude by 17 August 2024. It is unlikely the statutory review will be open to the public, however, the Victorian Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes MP, must table a copy of the review report in Parliament.


The scope of the review is limited to whether the criminal offences and civil response scheme are ‘effective’. Even so, the review gives is an opportune time to alert the Attorney-General to the serious problems with the legislation. There is an argument to be made that if the existence of this legislation is having a seriously chilling effect on the provision of evidence-based medical and mental health care for gender-questioning people, and forcing them into ‘gender affirming care’, then the law is not achieving its aim of protecting them from harm and is therefore ineffective. There is anecdotal evidence (reported on by the media) that the Act is indeed having a chilling effect.


Media articles:


Write a letter today

Anyone in Australia can write a letter to Jaclyn Symes MP to raise concerns about the operation of the Act.


The Attorney-General’s email address is: jaclyn.symes@parliament.vic.gov.au.


Starting your letter

  • Note that you understand that an independent statutory review of the operation and effectiveness of the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 is currently underway and must be completed by 17 August 2024.

  • Say you would like to contribute to the review and request that your concerns be passed this correspondence on the person undertaking the review.


Key points to include in your letter

These points are a thought-starter guide to help you write your letter. Include as many or as few as you like.


If you have a personal story, please share it in your letter.


High level summary:

  • The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 criminalises people who do not affirm a person’s stated gender identity. It is  harming gender-questioning people through its chilling effect on the provision of evidence-based exploratory therapy; anti-democratic in its over-reach into familes’ lives; and likely incompatible with several rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.  Such an Act cannot be described as ‘effective’ law. 


The problems with banning "gender identity conversion"

  • There is anecdotal evidence that mental health practitioners are afraid to do anything other than immediately affirm the stated gender identity of a patient, for fear of breaching the Act. This means mental health practitioners are being forced to practise in an unethical manner that is inconsistent with their training.

  • Parents of gender questioning children struggle to find therapists willing to treat their children. Those who will treat this cohort tend to be proponents of the ideological ‘gender affirming care’ approach. 

  • Affirming a person’s stated gender identity without exploring the thoughts and feelings behind that, and without treating co-existing mental health problems, is an unethical and ineffective way to go about delivering mental health care. There is strong evidence that a high proportion of children presenting to gender clinics have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, depression, anxiety or behavioural disorders. Many have histories of sexual abuse, trauma and family dysfunction. These children deserve evidence-based mental health care.

  • The Act represents a serious incursion on parental rights, since it appears to compel parents to ‘affirm’ their child’s stated gender identity and to assist a child to obtain ‘gender affirming care’ i.e. puberty blockers and cross sex hormones. Until recently, the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission had the following on its website as an example of a potentially illegal practice under the Act: 

    • ‘a parent refusing to support their child’s request for medical treatment that will enable them to prevent physical changes from puberty that do not align with the child’s gender identity and denying their child access to any health care services that would affirm their child’s gender identity’ 

    • It is unclear why this was removed from the website. It is conceivable that a parent who denies their child access to ‘gender affirming care’ could be in breach of the Act. Parents should not be compelled by government to start their child on a path to irreversible and profound health impacts including sterility and sexual dysfunction. A law that does this is draconian, authoritarian and anti-democratic. 

  • Not only is this Act authoritarian, it likely breaches several Charter rights of parents of gender questioning children, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief (s 14) and the right to protection of families and children (s 17). How is this an effective law? Why were these Charter impacts not discussed in the Statement of Compatibility accompanying the Bill?

  • Gender affirming care has emerged in the last decade as the predominant treatment model for gender questioning people in the western world. Yet several systematic studies have found that the evidence for its safety and effectiveness is weak to very weak.  Finland, Sweden, France and the UK have all moved away from a medicalised treatment model for gender questioning children and now prioritise mental health responses. The UK has recently closed its Tavistock gender clinic and banned puberty blockers for under 18s, except under strict clinical trial conditions. 

  • There is evidence that approximately 98% of children who take puberty blockers go on to take cross-sex hormones, indicating that puberty blockers cement a child’s cross-sex identification rather than providing a ‘pause’ as gender clinics state. These children will almost certainly be sterilised and most will be have no sexual function.  

  • Multiple high quality studies of gender questioning children have found that the vast majority desist with their cross-sex identification during puberty, and most of these children eventually recognise that they are gay. Since ‘gender affirming care’ locks children into a medicalised transition pathway, it could be described an extreme form of gay conversion therapy.

  • By forcing parents into ‘gender affirming’ medical care for their gender questioning children, the Act is contributing to the sterilisation of gay children. 



Additional information about the s57 Review of the Act

(1) The Attorney-General must ensure that an independent review of the operation and effectiveness of this Act commences 2 years after the commencement of this Act and is completed within 6 months.

(2) The Attorney-General must ensure that the review is conducted by a person who, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, possesses appropriate qualifications and expertise related to change or suppression practices.

(3) The person conducting the review must consider the following—

(a) whether the criminal offences contained in this Act are effective;

(b) whether the civil response scheme is effective, including whether broader investigation and enforcement powers are required;

(c) whether a redress scheme should be developed.

(4) A person who undertakes the review must give the Attorney-General a written report of the review as soon as practicable after completing the review.

(5) The Attorney-General must cause a copy of the review to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after receiving the written report.



Please consider sharing your letter with us

Remove any personal or private information (e.g. your full name and address). Reading your letters helps us to understand the problems that people are facing and to be more effective advocates for women's and children's rights.



What else can I do?

Sign and share this petition to repeal the Change of Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021.



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