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Activists and advocacy groups in Switzerland are warning legislation is needed to prevent the country from becoming a tourist destination for gay conversion therapy.
“We absolutely have to prevent Switzerland from becoming a refuge for ‘gay healers,’” the Swiss LGBTQ+ advocacy group, Pink Cross, told AFP.
Roman Heggli, the group’s managing director, said part of the problem is many elected officials don’t acknowledge the problem or say existing laws should stop the practice.
“We tell them it’s not enough and we can see that because conversion therapy is still happening in Switzerland, and we have a lot of victims,” Hegglis told Euronews.
Heggli also said practitioners in Switzerland use a linguistic sleight-of-hand and don’t call it conversion therapy.
“They say it’s only a self-finding trip, a therapy, or they want people to accept themselves but of course, that’s a lie because they don't really want them to accept themselves,” Heggli said. “They just want to make them straight and cis.”
The mountainous nation is culturally conservative, and only passed legislation legalizing marriage equality and making it easier to change gender markers on official documents in late 2020. Last year, the Swiss overwhelmingly approved public referendums on marriage equality, adoption for same-sex couples, and access to sperm donation for married women couples.
Despite popular support for the LGBTQ+ community, some religious groups note that electroshock therapy is outlawed in the country. Others, like pastor Stephane Klopfenstein of the Swiss Evangelical Network, said the issue is not about protection for vulnerable gay people but instead is about protecting religious liberty.
“We are touching on the bases of religious freedom by wanting to ban too much,” Klopfenstein told AFP.