An amendment to the law that bans gay conversion therapy will strengthen the legislation to also make it illegal for anyone to promote the practice.

It has been unlawful since 2016 to perform or advertise conversion practices, which try to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Those found guilty of doing so already face a fine of up to €5,000 or five months in jail.

The new amendment will redefine the advertising clause of the law to include the publishing, advertising, displaying, distributing, referral and circulation of any material promoting the practice.

Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg announced the change during a news conference on Thursday.

“It is extremely dangerous that there are still those that persist in promoting conversion therapy with false claims despite studies showing the opposite,” Buttigieg said. 

These studies do not only show that gay conversion therapy is ineffective but that it is harmful, she said, as these practices can make those within the LGBTIQ community feel as though they are lesser than others. 

“Although in our country there are only a few who try to do this harm, we still need this law as an affirmation that conversion practices are not socially accepted and that their advertising is also illegal in the eyes of the law,” Buttigieg said.

In 2016, Malta was the first country in the EU to introduce a ban on gay conversion therapy. 

The practice has in the past been linked to the evangelist movement River of Love, which organised a faith conversion event in 2011, entitled Gay No More. 

In 2015, Times of Malta exposed how River of Love pastor Gordon Manché's psychologist wife had started treating a gay man for his homosexuality. She denied the allegations.

More recently, X Factor Malta was criticised for airing the views of singer Matthew Grech, who in 2018 said he used to lead a homosexual lifestyle until he found Jesus. He went on to describe as "sinful" anything that is not marriage between men and women.

Grech is now a member of Core Issues Trust, a group that openly supports "men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression".

The organisation is registered in Northern Ireland.

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