New Zealand a step closer to banning harmful ‘conversion therapy’

jacinda ardern new zealand prime minister conversion therapy 2022
Image: Radio NZ/YouTube

New Zealand’s parliament has moved a step closer to a nationwide ban on harmful “conversion therapy” against LGBTIQ+ people.

The draft laws, introduced last year, would ban attempts to change a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

The bill defines “conversion therapy” as any “practice, sustained effort, or treatment”.

The proposed laws explicitly excludes “assisting an individual who is undergoing, or considering undergoing, a gender transition” and “providing acceptance, support, or understanding of an individual”, or “facilitating an individual’s coping skills”.

Anyone convicted of putting a child or vulnerable person through the harmful practices would face up to three years jail.

On February 8, the MPs in the New Zealand Parliament overwhelming voted in favour for the legislation.

Just seven MPs in New Zealand’s National party voted against it, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The bill will now go to another committee stage where MPs will debate any proposed amendments before it goes to a final vote.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured above) pledged to pass the legislation ahead of her landslide re-election in 2020.

Last August, New Zealand’s Justice Minister Kris Faafoi introduced the bill to ban “conversion therapy” to parliament.

“Those who have experienced conversion practices talk about ongoing mental health distress, depression, shame and stigma, and even suicidal thoughts,” Faafoi said at the time.

“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.

“Health professionals, religious leaders and human rights advocates here and overseas have spoken out against these practices.

“[They’re] harmful and have the potential to perpetuate prejudice, discrimination and abuse towards members of rainbow communities.”

Harmful conversion practices are still occurring in New Zealand

New Zealand media have reported the debunked conversion practices remain available in the country. They’re most common in private and faith-based institutions.

Local activist Shaneel Lal is a conversion therapy survivor and has campaigned to have them banned.

“[Conversion practices have] pushed and driven so many queer people into a life of pain and misery and death,” they told The Guardian last year.

“We are told that we are broken, that we have no future, that we will lose our family and friends.

“[Victims are told] God will hate them if they don’t change.

“Every single story that I’ve heard of conversion therapy, victims have questioned whether life is worth living.

“I was one of those people.”

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