Taiwan finalizes conversion therapy ban

Furthering the island’s reputation as a progressive champion of LGBTQ-inclusive policies

Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has announced a definitive verdict outlawing gay conversion therapy, the culmination of efforts dating back to June 2016, local media reported on Thursday.

Rather than codify the ban under the Physicians Act, with severe fines and potential short-term license suspensions for medical practitioners administering the therapy, as a December 2016 draft regulation had originally proposed, MOHW has opted instead to enforce the prohibition under the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act.

Shi Chong-Liang (石崇良), Taiwan’s medical affairs bureau chief, told CNA that the ministry chose to do so after consulting scholars, medical experts, and global bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council and the World Health Organization, none of whom classify homosexuality medically or psychologically. If that’s the case, the ministry reasoned, then conversion therapy should not be considered a medical procedure, and the practice should be legally regarded as an infringement upon human rights punishable regardless of whether or not the offender holds a medical license.

Shi emphasized that this logic should by no means deter members of the Taiwanese LGBTQ community suffering anxiety or depression related to their sexual orientation from seeking psychological or psychiatric care.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare first announced a draft regulation banning conversion therapy in late-December 2016, after receiving a letter in June of that year from the Taichung City Gender Equality Committee urging them to do so. It was initially reported by FOCUS Taiwan that the draft regulation would undergo a sixty day intermediary period, during which the ministry would hear public feedback, at the end of which the legislation would be finalized. The implementation of the ban was delayed after officials within the ministry questioned whether it should fall under the purview of the Physicians Act.

The prohibition further bolsters Taiwan’s reputation as a progressive champion of LGBTQ-inclusive policies, building on its announcement in January that it will add a third gender option on official identification cards.