Controversial Colombian bill to ban “conversion” therapies potentially threatening parents with imprisonment shelved – for now

By Javier Bolaños and Lizzie Sotola |
Senate of the Republic of Colombia
Senate of the Republic of Colombia. |

The debate over a bill that sought to prohibit so-called “conversion” therapies in Colombia was definitely shelved on Wednesday, according to pro-children and family legislators and activists. The so-called "Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression" (ECOSIEG) bill – also dubbed “Inconvertibles” – was supposed to be debated this week, raising concerns about the possible loss of parents’ authority over their children.

The permanent delegate ambassador of Colombia to UNESCO, Viviane Morales, warned in the newspaper El Tiempo that the bill “threatens parents with imprisonment for the crime of torture (from eleven to twenty-two years in prison) when they want to exercise their care and guidance over their minor children regarding such delicate issues as sexuality and family culture.”

Ahead of the scheduled debates, the Evangelical Confederation of Colombia (CEDECOL) called on the churches to participate in a national prayer and fasting plan, with intercession chains and vigils throughout the country.

“For each strategy, we are proposing the following prayers: Pray that the LORD heals our land (2nd Chronicles 7:14). Pray for the bill 270-2024 to be shelved in the First Commission of the Senate of the Republic, which will be held on Tuesday, June 11 (Jeremiah 29:12-13). And declare BLESSING on our nation Colombia (Psalm 33:12),” CEDECOL wrote in a document that was shared with evangelical churches.

Surprisingly, the debate was postponed on Tuesday due to lack of a quorum because only eight of the 22 senators who should have been present at the debate showed up.

Educational neuropsychologist Liliana Castañeda, an advocate for children and families who opposed the ECOSIEG bill, speculated that the inexplicable absence of the senators was due to “a very important phenomenon [that] has happened here, [which] is that we have made a lot of noise at a social level.”

“Many people are already aware of the project. Not all the Colombian population, but many people. So, I think that if somehow these senators were to come forward and approve the bill, it would be like a 'sacrifice' that they would make. [Because] we would bring their names to light and this could become their political death,” she said.

Castañeda also noted at that time, “If this bill is sunk in this legislature, they would have to start the whole process again, and they have already won more than half of the process. Four debates are required for it to be approved in the country and they have already won two debates. So, if it is reintroduced, we start again from scratch. With the big difference that if they reintroduce it, many people will already know about the bill.”

She also commented that “Colombia is characterized for being pro-family. Colombia is a conservative country. The common people who do not profess an evangelical Christian faith, but a Catholic faith, who are the great majority of Colombians in our nation, are defenders of the family and children," she said, noting that even “the indigenous tribes went to collect signatures against the bill because they are in favor of the protection of children and the family.”

On Wednesday, the bill was supposed to be debated again. However, other items were being debated first with bill 270-2024 scheduled last and eventually there was not enough time to discuss it. According to the rules, it was the last opportunity to discuss the initiative, which means the bill was shelved.

In a video disseminated on social media, Senator Lorena Ríos of the Colombia Justa Libres party announced that “the sinking of the bill 270 of the year 2024 called ‘Inconvertibles’ was achieved because the term expired.”

Christian pro-family activist Jonathan Silva also released a video from the Senate of the Republic stating that “the bill 270 Inconvertibles - ECOSIEG, which sought to harm children, attack the Catholic and Evangelical Christian Church, has just been sunk. Thanks to all those who united, those who collected signatures, those who prayed, those who believed that it could be done. We will continue to defend the truth as far as we can.”

Silva added that “if it is presented again as it is, we will oppose it again... This is a miracle, a blessing!”

According to sources consulted by Diario Cristiano, Christian Daily International’s Spanish edition, the proponents of the legislation intend to reintroduce a bill next July.