That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Mental Health Act 2001 and for that purpose to provide for the right of minors over the age of 16 to consent to mental health treatment and to provide for related matters.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Mythen. I begin by thanking the former Senator, Máire Devine, on the Trojan work she did on this Bill in the last Seanad. This is a progressive mental health Bill that acknowledges and supports our young people. It will give autonomy to 16- and 17-year olds and allow them to consent to and avail of appropriate mental health treatment. This legislation is about destigmatising mental health treatment, something that is alien to any other medical intervention. Under Irish law, adolescents aged 16 and 17 can currently consent to physical and dental health treatment but do not have the explicit right to consent to mental health treatment. This Bill will bring parity to youth mental health.
It is also very fitting that we introduce this Bill during Pride Month. Conversion therapy is not yet prohibited in this State, despite Senator Warfield having introduced the Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill 2018. Lack of political will from successive Governments has seen this Bill stymied. This is 2021 and so-called conversion therapy has no place in a modern Ireland. The Bill will close the loophole in legislation that still permits 16- and 17-year-olds to be subjected to conversion therapy against their will. Currently they do not have the legislative right to refuse this draconian practice. This Bill will change this. So-called conversion therapy should have no place in our society. It is harmful, destructive and has been condemned and discredited worldwide by institutions such as the UN Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament and the Irish Council for Psychotherapy.
We have seen some progressive movements in this country over the years such as the marriage referendum, but we still have some way to go. Recent homophobic attacks on the Pride flags and other premises have highlighted the need for a fully inclusive society that the vast majority of us hope for. I spoke about this subject recently and have been subjected to some right-wing bile; I must be doing something right.
That the conversion therapy needs to be legislated against under the area of health is also wrong. This is a human rights issue, not a health issue and definitely not a mental health issue. This Bill will simply stop the inhumane practice of forced conversion therapy to 16- and 17-year-olds against their will. I commend the Bill to the House.