New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour party have committed to banning gay conversion therapy if re-elected in this month’s election.
“This is a prime example of where an element of our system allows for quite damaging activity, which in modern NZ should just not be happening,” she told Express.
Ardern said she was moved to oppose the practice after seeing it portrayed in a 2003 Joseph Gordon-Levitt film.
“I still remember watching the film Latter Days at the film festival in Wellington some years ago. That film never left me,” she said.
“It’s one of the reasons I feel quite strongly about this policy.”
The film depicts a secret relationship between a closeted Mormon missionary and his gay neighbour.
Ardern continued, “If we are able to form a government this will be on our agenda.
“I will commit our numbers to delivering this. I hope [other] parties in parliament will support it.
“If New Zealand delivers a parliament that doesn’t give us those numbers, I will do what I can to still get it over the line, regardless.”
Ardern, who was raised as a Mormon, left the church in 2005. She previously explained the church’s teachings conflicted with her personal views, particularly on LGBTIQ rights.
Conversion therapy still happening in New Zealand
New Zealand media report the debunked conversion therapies remain available in the country, most commonly in private and faith-based institutions.
Labour MP Paul Stevens told a 2018 TVNZ documentary in 2018 a church counsellor told him he could “change” his homosexuality in his youth.
“He told me I wasn’t gay, and said I could change who I was,” he said.
“He told me that I didn’t need to be gay.
“I realised later how much damage that did. It really held me back in terms of my journey because I wasn’t able to accept myself.”
Last year, a New Zealand parliamentary committee told the government “more work” was needed on devising such a ban.
In a report, the committee members acknowledged the practices are harmful. However MPs said the government should delay the ban over concerns about religious freedom.
New Zealand LGBTIQ advocates slammed the committee’s report at the time.
Polling in New Zealand has found almost three quarters of New Zealanders support outlawing conversion therapy.
Ardern’s Labour party also pledged to enact gender recognition reforms to benefit transgender Kiwis.
The party will improve processes allowing trans people to update their gender markers on birth certificates and drivers licenses.
“We have advanced a lot this term but there is more work to do to make sure all New Zealanders live free of discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Labour Rainbow spokesperson Tāmati Coffey said.
New Zealand will go to the polls on October 17.
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