“Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand,” the Justice Minister says.
The Labour Government will ban conversion therapy answering long-standing calls from New Zealand’s LGBTQ+ community and fulfilling a commitment the Labour Party took to the last election.
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has confirmed that a Bill has been introduced to protect against conversion practices aimed at changing sexuality and gender identities. Once the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill has had its first reading it will go to the Justice Select Committee for public submissions.
Under the proposed legislation, those found guilty of practising conversion therapy could face prison sentences of up to five years.
Until now, a private member’s bill to ban conversion therapy in the name of Labour list MP Marja Lubeck has been on the member’s ballot.
The introduction of a government-sponsored bill has now been made possible with a majority Labour Government, with observers pointing to the government’s junior coalition partner New Zealand First being the barrier to its introduction in the last parliamentary term.
Speaking to express in 2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern directly addressed community concern that the government had not acted faster on banning conversion therapy saying “For it to become a member’s bill that is supported by Labour. We support it. I support it. That’s different obviously from a government bill. But it exists, it’s in the ballot.” – That bill will no longer be needed.
The government’s proposed legislation intends to “protect against practices intended to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
Minister Faafoi says the Bill would end the discredited and harmful practices which “have no place in modern New Zealand.”
“Those who have experienced conversion practices talk about ongoing mental health distress, depression, shame and stigma, and even suicidal thoughts,” Minister Faafoi said.
“Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand. They are based on the false belief that any person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is broken and in need of fixing.”
The Government is confident it has the backing not only of the LGBTQ+ community but health professionals and those in the religious community.
“Health professionals, religious leaders and human rights advocates here and overseas have spoken out against these practices as harmful and having the potential to perpetuate prejudice, discrimination and abuse towards members of rainbow communities,” Kris Faafoi said.
The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill creates two new criminal offences for either the most serious cases of harm or where there is a heightened risk of harm. The Bill also creates a pathway for civil redress.
Under the proposed Bill, it will be an offence to perform conversion practices on a child or young person aged under 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity. Such offences would be subject to up to 3 years imprisonment.
It would also be an offence to perform conversion practices on anyone – irrespective of age – where the practices have caused serious harm and would carry up to 5 years imprisonment.
Civil redress will also be an option where complaints about conversion practices could be made to the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Review Tribunal.
To be considered a conversion practice under the Bill, a practice must meet all the following elements:
- Be directed towards someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, AND
- Performed with the intention of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Minister Faafoi says the bill has been “carefully designed to ensure health practitioners providing health services will not be captured; nor will people providing legitimate counselling, support and advice.”
The justice minister says that “General expressions of religious beliefs or principles about sexuality and gender will also not be captured.”
The legalisation will mirror what has already been implemented across large parts of the West, including Canada, Germany the United Kingdom and several states in Australia and the US.