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People celebrate in Saint George's Square after the Maltese parliament approved a civil unions bill in Valletta on April 14, 2014.
Matthew Mirabelli—AFP/Getty Images

The country of Malta has outlawed so-called conversion therapy, becoming the first European country to do so, the government announced this week.

The therapy aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender orientation. Individuals who attempt to convert someone will face fines and a potential criminal sentence, according to a report in Malta Today. The new law also states that neither sexual orientation nor gender identification can be classified as disease or disorder.

Conversion therapy has come under increased scrutiny in recent months in large part due to Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s alleged support of the practice during a 2000 run for Congress. (A spokesperson has denied the charge). The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and other leading groups have condemned the practice.

Malta, a Mediterranean country of just 420,000 people, has been recognized as among the most-friendly European countries for LGBT people.

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