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Germany Bans Gay Conversion Therapy for Minors

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  • Germany’s parliament approved a new law Thursday that bans the practice and advertisement of so-called gay “conversion therapy” for minors. 
  • Parents or guardians who force children to undergo the practice through deception, coercion, or threats can also face punishments. 
  • Violators could be hit with a fine of up to 30,000 euros (about $33,000) or face imprisonment for up to one year. 
  • Though it has received much praise, some have criticized the bill, saying that it fails to protect young adults between the ages of 18 and 26.

Law Passed 

Germany has become the latest country to ban gay “conversion therapy” for those below the age of 18. 

In December of last year, Germany’s Cabinet backed a bill banning the widely discredited practice, which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The country’s parliament then voted Thursday to pass the legislation as well. 

Along with a ban on the practice against minors, the legislation also prohibits advertisements for it. Parents and legal guardians can even be punished for making children take part through deception, coercion, or threats.

Violators could be hit with a fine of up to 30,000 euros ($33,000) or face imprisonment for up to one year. 

Punishments for those who coerce minors into the practice are major. A 2019 survey by OutRight Action International, a global human rights organization, found that a third of people around the globe who have undergone conversion therapy chose to do it for themselves, while two-thirds were coerced.

Lawmakers Push for the Ban 

Conversion therapy practices can sometimes include hypnosis and electric shocks, but experts say the word ‘therapy’ is misleading because there is no scientific basis for it. In fact, conversion therapy has been associated with suicidal ideation and attempts, as well as drug abuse and depression.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, the Christian Democrat party’s most prominent gay politician, said in a statement, “Homosexuality is not a disease. Therefore the name therapy alone is misleading,”

“This so-called therapy makes people sick and not better. The ban is also an important signal from society to all those who are unsure about their homosexuality: It is okay to be the way you are,” he added.

Criticism of Bill’s Age Restriction  

While the bill has been widely applauded, some argue that it does no go far enough. 

A few members of Germany’s left-wing opposition refused to support the measure because it included just minors under the age of 18. Instead, they hoped the bill would use the traditional societal category of “youth,” which extends to persons 26 or younger. 

Gabriela Lünsmann of Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD) is one who agreed that the age limit should be raised. She also objected to the inclusion of the phrase “treatment performed on humans,” which she and her organization said “has a positive connotation and suggests a promise of healing and an achievable treatment goal.”

But Spahn defended the ban ahead of the vote in the Bundestag, saying he wanted a law that could easily withstand legal challenges.

I want a ban which will be robust, including if it’s brought before the courts,” he said. 

He did not give other specifics about the reason for these age limits, but under German law, it’s easier to protect minors. Legal justifications became more tricky for adults when freedom of speech and conscience laws are taken into account. 

“Young people are being forced into conversion therapies,” Spahn explained, “and so it is very important that they should find support in the existence of this law: a clear signal that the state does not want this to happen.”

Germany is now the fifth nation to pass such a ban, following decisions from Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan, according to OutRight Action International. In the U.S. about 20 states and several cities have banned the practice for minors. Some members of Congress have even pushed for the ban to be established on a federal level. 

“So-called conversion therapy efforts are based on the belief that cis-gender heterosexuality is the norm, and transgender identities and same-sex attraction not only fall outside the norm, but have to be changed, if need be by brutal, inhuman force,” the group’s executive director Jessica Stern said in a statement. 

“The German Bundestag took an incredibly important step today – by banning ‘conversion therapy’ it sent a powerful message that LGBTIQ people are not in need of change or cure.”

 See what others are saying: (CNN) (BBC) (DW

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Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse

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The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.


Priest Sparks Outrage

Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.

Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.

To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.

Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.

“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.

“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”

In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.

Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”

Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.

Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims

Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.

According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.

Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.

The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.

While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”

With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.

The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.

See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)

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Tokyo Sets Back-to-Back Records for Number of Daily COVID-19 Cases

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Some positive cases were detected among people attending the Olympic Games, including a handful of athletes.


Cases Going Up

The Tokyo Olympic Games found itself in more controversy on Wednesday after Tokyo experienced a record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.

On Tuesday, the city recorded 2,848 new cases of the virus, passing the 2,500 daily new case threshold for the first time since the pandemic began. Then on Wednesday, it shattered the record again with 3,177 new COVID-19 cases.

At least 155 of those new cases were detected among people attending the Games, including a handful of athletes, which contrasts Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s promise that the Olympics wouldn’t be hit with the virus. The spike in new cases has largely been attributed to the delta-variant, something that many countries are dealing with around the world.

Nishimura Yasutoshi, a Japanese economic minister, told a parliamentary panel this week that COVID-19 cases are expected to continue rising for at least a few days. He also explained that many people may have delayed getting tested last week due to holidays, therefore inflating total daily new case numbers.

Governors in prefectures around Tokyo have moved to ask the government for states-of-emergency, which Tokyo is already under.

Doubts About Government Response

The prime minister said in a press conference on Tuesday that “the government has secured a new drug that reduces the risk of serious illness by 70 percent,” adding, “we have confirmed that this drug will be used thoroughly from now on.”

However, he never actually mentioned what drug he was referencing.

“In any case, under these circumstances, I would like to ask the people to avoid going out unnecessarily and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on TV,” Suga continued.

He also stressed that canceling the Olympics amid the outbreak was completely out of the question, although there have been continued calls from the public and opposition lawmakers for just that.

Beyond refusing to cancel the Games, Suga is facing backlash for refusing to enact strict state-of-emergency protocols. Currently, the measures in Tokyo are almost all voluntary and consist of asking people to stay home, along with requesting restaurants that serve alcohol to completely close and telling all others to shut down by 8 p.m.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)

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First Person Charged Under Hong Kong National Security Law Found Guilty of Terrorism and Inciting Secession

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Dozens more are awaiting trial for breaking the controversial National Security Law, which is aimed at protecting Chinese sovereignty at the cost of basic freedoms within Hong Kong.


First Conviction Under National Security Law

The first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s extremely controversial National Security Law was found guilty of his crimes Tuesday morning.

A judge ruled that Tong Ying-kit was guilty of both terrorism and inciting secession after the 24-year-old failed to stop at a police checkpoint while on his motorcycle last July, which resulted in him eventually riding into police. At the same time, he was carrying a flag that said “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”

According to Justice Esther Toh, that phrase alone was capable of inciting others to commit succession, she also that added that Tong understood that the flag had secessionist meaning in an effort to set aside doubts that Tong understood the flag’s inherent meaning.

Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director said,“The conviction of Tong Ying-kit is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong.”

“Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail,” she added.

More Convictions Expected Sparking Fear Over Erosion of Rights

A long string of convictions will likely follow Tong’s, as over 100 people have been arrested under the ambiguous law that criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression under the guise of protecting Chinese sovereignty. Of those arrested, 60 are currently awaiting trial, including dozens of pro-democracy politicians who have been accused of subversiveness for their calls to block the government’s agenda in the legislature.

That has drawn particular concern among international critics who fear the precedent that will be set once it’s clear to politicians that failing to rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s agenda will result in prison terms.

It’s widely expected that as more people are found guilty, the few remaining protections of the city’s Basic Law, a British common law-inspired mini-constitution, will be completely eroded.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (BBC)

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