The New Zealand government has introduced legislation to ban conversion therapy, declaring the debunked and dangerous practices have “no place in modern New Zealand”.
The proposed laws would ban attempts to change a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
Anyone who subjects a minor or vulnerable person to the debunked practice would face three years jail.
Those found conducting conversion therapy causing “serious harm”, regardless of age, would face five years jail.
The bill is likely to pass with the support of New Zealand Labour’s large majority. New Zealand Justice Minister Kris Faafoi introduced the bill on Friday.
“Those who have experienced conversion practices talk about ongoing mental health distress, depression, shame and stigma, and even suicidal thoughts,” 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.”
“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.”
NZ conversion therapy survivor describe ‘pain and misery’
Activist Shaneel Lal is a Kiwi survivor of conversion practices 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.
“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.”
The activist broadly welcomed the government’s draft bill but also flagged some issues.
“The term ‘serious harm’ implies that it is okay to cause harm, if it is not serious harm,” they said.
Lal is concerned survivors may struggle to reach the high threshold to prove their “serious emotional and psychological harm” to the court.
PM Jacinda Ardern committed to ban before re-election
Last year, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern committed to banning conversion practices before her landslide re-election.
“This is a prime example of where an element of our system allows for quite damaging activity. In modern NZ [it] should just not be happening,” she said.
New Zealand media have reported the debunked conversion therapies remain available in the country. They’re most common in private and faith-based institutions.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.