New Zealand’s parliament has outlawed dangerous and discredited “conversion therapy” in a near-unanimous vote.
“Conversion therapy” refers to debunked and dangerous practices to change or suppress people’s sexuality or gender identity.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government introduced the legislation to ban the practices last year.
The bill outlaws attempts to change a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
On Tuesday night, the legislation passed its final vote in the parliament. The bill passed 112 votes in favour, but eight National party MPs voted against it.
The laws make it an offence to perform “conversion” practices on anyone aged under 18 and also vulnerable people, with a punishment of up to three years prison.
It also makes it an offence to perform the practices that cause “serious harm” to anyone. That carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.
“This is a great day for New Zealand’s rainbow communities,” Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said.
“Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand.”
Deputy Prime Minister dedicates ‘conversion therapy’ ban to victims
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who is gay, paid tribute to victims of the practices. He said the laws aim to protect “generations to come” from the harmful practices.
“I grew up in a religious churchgoing household in the era of homosexual law reform,” he told the parliament.
“When I finally gathered the courage to come out to my parents, I was met with love.
“[However] not everyone is or was so lucky.
“To all those affected by conversion practices or attempts at them, we want to say, this legislation is for you.”
However Robertson went on, “We cannot bring you back, we cannot undo all of the hurt.
“But we can make sure that for the generations to come, we provide the support and love you did not get and protect you from the harm of those who seek to try to stop you from being who you are.”
New Zealand MP ‘desperately tried to pray the gay away’
Also speaking about the Bill, government minister Kiri Allan revealed she survived conversion practices as a 16-year-old.
“I went through conversion therapy (it wasn’t called that, but that’s what it was) through my church,” Allan wrote on Facebook.
“I desperately tried to ‘pray the gay’ away to be accepted by my family, community and church.
“My ‘illness’ and ‘weakness’ to temptation was etched as sin into my skin.
“It took a long time to shake that shame and trauma.
However the new laws will ensure “this practice is banned in our country for good,” she said.
“For our next generation of babies, I am so incredibly relieved. Thank you to everyone that championed this change.”
Conversion practices remain available in New Zealand
New Zealand media have reported the harmful and discredited conversion practices are still available in the country, most commonly in religious and private institutions.
Local activist and founder of the Conversion Therapy Action Group Shaneel Lal is a survivor. They applauded the laws passing the parliament.
“The ban on conversion therapy is a win for humanity, not just the queer community,” they said.
“Queer rights are human rights. Queer people do not need to be tolerated or accepted, we need to be liberated.”
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