The New Zealand government announced Sunday that it will pass legislation banning conversion therapy practices in the country by the end of this year or February next year at the latest.
Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi confirmed that the Ministry of Justice is drafting a new piece of legislation to effect the change by making conversion therapy practices a criminal offense, civil offense or both. Faafoi noted that conversion therapy practices, which are undertaken with the goal of changing a LGBTQIA+ person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, cause serious harm to those subjected to it, who are often vulnerable youths.
“There is no therapeutic purpose or medical basis for these conversion practices … and we want to ensure the legislation passes as quickly as possible so the Rainbow community and all those affected by these abhorrent practices are protected,” Faafoi commented.
The move comes amidst significant criticism from the New Zealand public that conversion therapy can currently be practiced in the country. A petition launched by the Green Party this month asking the government to “urgently prioritize ending conversion therapy” amassed more than 158,000 signatures in nine days, echoing the efforts of many previous petitions.
In addition to the New Zealand public’s opposition to conversion therapy practices, most of the country’s major political parties have publicly taken their stance against such practices of late. The Labour Party, which currently has a majority in the House of Representatives given that it has 65 seats, committed to banning conversion therapy in its 2020 election campaign policies. The Green Party, which has 10 seats in the House and a cooperation agreement with the Labour Party, has long made its disagreement with conversion therapy clear. It celebrated the government’s Sunday announcement. The National Party, which has 33 seats in the House and has traditionally held “no view” on the topic and has floated concerns about a ban threatening freedom of speech, announced earlier this month that it supports outlawing conversion therapy after its leader Judith Collins Googled the issue and engaged in discussion with the party’s youth wing. The Māori Party, which has two seats in the House, stated last October that it would ban conversion therapy, noting that such practices have no place in the country. ACT New Zealand, which has 10 seats in the House, does not support the ban.
New Zealand’s move is couched within wider global opposition to conversion therapy. Organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association have taken public stances against the practice on account of its harmfulness and ineffectiveness. A poll conducted in 2019 for Reuters revealed that 56 percent of American adults support outlawing conversion therapy. Many countries have enacted nationwide bans against conversion therapy, including Brazil, Germany and Ecuador wherein those convicted of practicing conversion therapy can be imprisoned for up to 10 years under Article 151 of the 2014 Penal Code given that conversion therapy is considered torture in the country.
Faafoi said that the Ministry of Justice will consult with stakeholders as well as engaging in public consultation and scrutinizing the draft bill before it is passed into law.