The New Zealand government introduced a bill in the country’s parliament Friday that criminalizes conversion practices targeted at LGBTQ+ people to deter the performance of such practices.
The bill defines conversion practice as any action taken against a person because of that person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, with the intention of changing or suppressing that person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Further, the bill excludes from the scope of conversion practices health services provided by health practitioners, along with people offering legitimate counseling, support, and advice. The bill also exempts the general expression of religious beliefs on sexuality and gender from the definition.
Introducing the bill, Minister of Justice Kris 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.” He further added, “delivering on our 2020 election manifesto to prohibit conversion practices,” the bill will offer an avenue to redress the harm caused by conversion practices and safeguard all New Zealander’s human rights to live free of discrimination.
The bill makes it illegal for anybody to undertake conversion practice on a person under the age of 18 or on any person who lacks the mental ability to grasp the nature and implications of decisions affecting their health. Any contravention of this provision entails a penalty of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years. Furthermore, the bill stipulates that any conversion practice that causes “serious harm” to a person would be punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment. In any case, consent of the person undergoing such practices is not a defense.
Moreover, the bill also creates a civil avenue of remedy for survivors of conversion practices by authorizing the Human Rights Commission to receive complaints.
This move comes just months after the New Zealand government announced in February 2021 that it will pass a law prohibiting conversion practices. In June, Canada’s House of Commons also approved a bill criminalizing LGBTQ+ conversion practices.