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Government aiming to ban conversion therapy by February next year

The Government is aiming to have banned conversion therapy by February next year, as pressure mounts to speed up delivering on its election promise. 

File photo. Source: 1 NEWS

The Green Party, fed up with the time it was taking the Government to ban conversion therapy, launched a petition for priority to be placed on outlawing the practice. It has since received more than 157,000 signatures. National also gave its support to banning conversion therapy earlier this month. 

Amid the political pressure, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi today said the Government was aiming to ban conversion therapy by February 22 at the latest.

The Prime Minister previously announced she wanted legislation in Parliament this year - Faafoi today said policy which is currently being developed would be in Parliament by the middle of this year. 

"There is no therapeutic purpose or medical basis for these conversion practices, which can cause real and lasting damage, particularly for vulnerable young people who are often the victims of these practices," Faafoi said. 

The proposed law is set to create a new criminal and/or civil offence to prohibit conversion practices, Faafoi said.

"That work requires considering issues like how to define ‘conversion practices’, how legal protections would work and for whom, and whether conversion practices should be regulated by civil law in additional to criminal law, where civil penalties might be more appropriate than criminal liability."

Labour promised at the last election to ban conversion therapy, in which a person attempts to change a person's sexual orientation.
"We’re working on the policy now," Jacinda Ardern said on February 5. "We’ve committed to reform, but I want to get it right."

Green Party's rainbow spokesperson Elizabeth Kerekere said the Government's timeline would ensure "that survivors can share their stories and feed into the law-making process".

"For the Green Party, and the affected communities, the focus will now be to ensure the Bill is robust and protects all of us. That means no religious exemptions, because we know the vast majority of these practices happen in churches and other religious settings," Kerekere said. 

"We’ll be pushing to ensure the full Rainbow community is included. It must be illegal to practice conversion therapy on anyone who is trans, intersex or non-binary as well as gay, lesbian or bisexual. We must end conversion therapy for all rainbow communities."

Calls to ban sexual orientation and gender conversion therapy came in 2018 after TVNZ1's Sunday investigated therapy offering to "cure" people.