Government to criminalise gay conversion therapy

By Will Trafford

Legislation banning gay conversion therapy has been introduced to Parliament by Justice Minister Kris Faafoi.

Conversion therapy is defined as any practice to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Faafoi says the conversion practices prohibition legislation aims to end the practices which "don’t work, are widely discredited, and cause harm to rainbow communities.

"Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand," he said. "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 practice is typically undertaken by religious institutions but akatāpui have been lobbying the government to ban the practice for years. Labour committed to fast-tracking the legislation during the 2020 general election.

“What we are doing is in line with prohibitions established or being considered in other countries, including the US, Canada, Germany, the UK and the Australian states of Queensland, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory," Faafoi said.

Backed by three parties

The Greens and Te Pāti Māori have both issued statements in support of the legislation.

“We will always support whānau to be who they are," Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says.

"Te Ao Māori has always celebrated our diverse gender and sexual identities. It was colonisation that started criminalising and oppressing people for being who they are, turning us against our own whānau,”

National has previously said it too will support the bill.

The new legislation could impose a prison sentence of up to five years for those overseeing the practice but Faafoi said the definition of conversion practice had been designed to "ensure health practitioners providing health services will not be captured; nor will people providing legitimate counselling, support and advice."

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

The public will have an opportunity to submit their views on the proposed law in the select committee process.