France adopts new law prohibiting conversion therapies
Fresenius Medical Care, Bad Homburg
On 17 May 1990, homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder by the World Health Organization. However, across the globe, this declassification did not stop the so-called ‘treatments’ purporting to change sexual orientation. These treatments can involve massive injections of testosterone or aversion therapy, which involves subjecting individuals to electric shocks while showing them images of homosexual acts to disgust them. These treatments are known as conversion therapies.
Whether by consent or by being forced, from a psychological talk to a surgical act, conversion therapies take several forms, but all of them have been recognised as ineffective and even harmful to individuals.
In 2015, the international community made a recommendation to end conversion therapies through the UN report, Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, which presented recommendations on protecting LGBTQI rights. In 2018, the European community took a step further. The European Parliament, in its ‘Motion for a resolution Paragraph 63 b (new) to the Annual report on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU in 2016 2017/2125(INI)’,  encouraged all the Member States to prohibit LGBTQI+ conversion therapies.
France’s new law
Influenced by the above-mentioned recommendations, in 2019, French parliamentarians started a group discussion to better understand what conversion therapies are, since the public authorities have little knowledge and since the French law did not have a specific offence condemning these therapies. Several directions were defined to protect the potential targeted population but the main one was the creation of a criminal offence with a clear definition and scope of conversion therapies.
On 25 January 2022, Law 2022-92 ‘Prohibiting practices aimed at modifying a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity’ was unanimously approved by the 142 French parliamentarians present and the law was promulgated on 31 January 2022.
The law is divided into three chapters. The first and second chapters are related to the definition of the offences and the sentences associated, while the third is related to the application of the law in French overseas territories.
The first chapter defines ‘conversion therapies’ and penalises these practices. Article 1 draws a line between the criminalised therapies (aimed at modifying or repressing a person’s actual or assumed sexual orientation or gender identity and resulting in impairment of physical or mental health) and therapies whose aim is to provide support and guidance to people questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. Article 1 punishes by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of €30,000 and punishes by three years’ imprisonment and a fine of €45,000 when committed to the detriment of a minor or when a minor was present at the time of the acts and witnessed them; by an ascendant or any person having de jure or de facto authority over the victim; on a person whose particular vulnerability or dependence, due to age, illness, infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, pregnancy or precarious economic or social situation, is apparent or known to the perpetrator; by several persons acting as perpetrators or accomplices; by the use of an online public communication service or via a digital or electronic medium.
The second chapter amends the French public health code and targets conversion therapies in the context of the healthcare system. Article 3 draws a line between giving consultations or prescribing treatment while claiming to be able to modify or repress real or assumed sexual orientation or gender identity and when the health professional simply invites the person questioning his or her gender identity and considering a medical procedure leading to sex reassignment to reflect and exercise caution, particularly in view of his or her young age. Article 3 punishes by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of €30,000 and by three years’ imprisonment and a fine of €45,000 when committed to the detriment of a minor or a person whose particular vulnerability or dependence, due to age, illness, infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, pregnancy or precarious economic or social situation, is apparent or known to the perpetrator. Natural persons guilty of the offence may also be disqualified from practising for a period not exceeding ten years.
Previous statements from the Ministry of Justice provided feedback regarding available legal tools sanctioning conversion therapy, such as Article 223-15-2 of the Criminal Code: offence of abuse of weakness and the offence of illegal practice of medicine, since Article L 4161-1 of the public health code uses the term ‘real or supposed’ illnesses, and all the other offences of intentional violence listed in the criminal code.
Nevertheless, the creation of a specific law was necessary to remind the fundamental right to gender identity and gender expression. Also, beside the creation of the offence, the law brings public awareness about conversion therapies and hopefully will lead to additional national initiatives improving the way victims are received at police stations and gendarmeries but also in the healthcare system.
 Report A/HRC/29/23, available at https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/797193?ln=en.
 Practices claiming to alter a person's sexual orientation or gender identity – fact-finding mission’, www2.assemblee-nationale.fr/15/commissions-permanentes/commission-des-lois/missions-flash/pratiques-pretendant-modifier-l-orientation-sexuelle-ou-l-identite-de-genre-d-une-personne/(block)/60631.
 Chapter I: Creation of an offence relating to practices aimed at modifying sexual orientation or gender identity (Articles 1 to 2); Chapter II: Prohibition of practices aimed at modifying sexual orientation or gender identity in the health system (Article 3); and Chapter III: Overseas Application (Article 4).