New Zealand introduces ‘conversion therapy’ legislation

New Zealand’s government has introduced legislation into the state’s parliament that will band conversion practices across the nation.

The bill is aimed at ending practices that try to convince people that their sexuality or gender identity can be changed via counselling or other sometimes torturous practices.

“Those who have experienced conversion practices talk about ongoing mental health distress, depression, shame and stigma, and even suicidal thoughts,” the Minister of Justice, Kris Faafoi, said as he introduced the legislation on Friday.

“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 legislation makes it illegal to perform conversion practices on anyone who under the age of eighteen, or has an impaired ability to make decisions. Those found guilty of delivering conversion practices could be sent to jail for up to three years.

A longer jail sentence of up to five years will apply to people who deliver services which cause “serious harm” irrespective of the person’s age.

Conversion practices tackled around the world

Similar laws have been introduced in parts of the United States, and Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria already have laws to protect people.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has ignored calls to introduce similar legislation, instead opting to tighten the requirements of being recognised as a counsellor. Critics argue that the Western Australian approach ignores religious based organisations where the practice may still be occurring.

The Australian Christian Lobby and locally based group True Identity have lobbied the WA government to resist bringing in similar laws in Western Australia with proponents of therapy as a pathway for people to deal with unwanted sexuality declaring WA is a haven for people “escaping” the laws introduced in other Australian states.

In 2020 a United Nations report delivered by the Independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity found that conversion practices caused “significant loss of self-esteem, anxiety, depressive syndrome, social isolation, intamacy difficulty self-hatred, shame and guilt, sexual dysfunction, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

OIP Staff

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