Jail possible as Govt introduces Bill to ban conversion therapy

The Government is taking steps to fulfill its election promise of banning conversion therapy - today introducing a proposed law to ban the practice which tries to make a person change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Source: 1 NEWS

It could see someone imprisoned for up to three years in jail for performing conversion therapy on someone under 18, and up to five years where it has caused serious harm, irrespective of age. 

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi announced the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill today. 

He said it "aimed at ending conversion practices which don’t work, are widely discredited, and cause harm to rainbow communities and the wider community". 

"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."

The proposal makes it a criminal offence "to perform conversion practices on a child or young person aged under 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity".

Someone performing conversion therapy on a person under 18 could receive punishment of up to three years in jail. 

A person could get up to five years in prison if they have performed conversion therapy on a person of any age and it has caused serious harm.

It also would allow for civil redress.

To be considered conversion therapy, it must: "Be directed towards someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and performed with the intention of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression".

"The Bill’s definition of conversion practice has been carefully designed to ensure health practitioners providing health services will not be captured; nor will people providing legitimate counselling, support and advice," Faafoi said. 

"General expressions of religious beliefs or principles about sexuality and gender will also not be captured."

Green Party's Elizabeth Kerekere welcomed the proposed bill. 

"Aotearoa should be a place where no matter who you love or how you identify, you are accepted, and no one should be allowed to force people to change who they are," she said. 

Labour announced its promise to ban conversion therapy in last year's election.

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

It revealed that conversion therapy in New Zealand was readily available.

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Green Party co-convenor, Max Tweedie, gives an update on the 20,000 strong joint Young Green Party/Labour petition. Source: Breakfast

Labour MP Marja Lubeck had already introduced a Member's bill in 2018, after a 20,000-strong petition led by the Green and Labour youth wings was delivered to Parliament. It was never pulled from the ballot.

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The issue of gay and trans conversion therapy was highlighted in a TVNZ1 Sunday investigation. Source: 1 NEWS

Earlier this year, 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.

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The Green Party used today’s Big Gay Out to send a strong message to parliament. Source: 1 NEWS

It received more than 157,000 signatures. National also gave its support to banning conversion therapy. Faafoi said at the time the Government was aiming to have it banned by February 2022.

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The leader says they came to the decision after she googled what conversion therapy was. Source: 1 NEWS

Shaneel Lal, who was a youth MP and had also been through conversion therapy, told Breakfast last year they were disappointed it had not yet been banned, after calling for a ban in Parliament back in 2019. 

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Shaneel Lal says by keeping the practice legal, the NZ Government is “keeping torture legal”. Source: Breakfast

"Conversion therapy is not about 'praying the gay away', it's about psychologically and physically torturing the most vulnerable to death," Lal told Parliament at the time

Source: TVNZ