“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,” Kris Faafoi, the country’s justice minister, said in a statement Friday.
He added that health professionals, religious leaders and human rights advocates in New Zealand and overseas have spoken out against these practices as “harmful and having the potential to perpetuate prejudice, discrimination and abuse towards members of rainbow communities.”
New Zealand’s justice minister said Friday that the country is joining prohibitions put in place or being considered in other countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain and the Australian states of Queensland, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. Queen Elizabeth II announced in her annual address to the House of Lords in May that the British government will seek to ban the practice.
The United States does not have a federal ban on conversion therapy, but a handful of states, including California, Colorado, New York, Washington and Utah, prohibit the practice to some degree.
The most extreme methods include electric shock therapy, hormone regimens, physical and sexual abuse, and internment. Psychotherapy and religious counseling aimed at changing someone’s gender or sexual identity also fall into the category of conversion therapy.
About 700,000 LGBTQ adults in America have undergone some form of conversion therapy, according to a 2019 report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. Health bodies including the American Psychological Association say there is no evidence that conversion practices are successful in changing sexuality or gender identity.
Shaneel Lal, a survivor and activist who helped push for the New Zealand law change, hailed the bill, and implored supporters on Twitter to “get ready to show up for queer people” as it is debated.
If the New Zealand bill is passed, as appears likely with a majority Labour government, it will be an offense to perform conversion practices on anyone under 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity. Such offenses would be subject to up to three years’ imprisonment.
It would also be an offense to perform conversion practices on anyone — irrespective of age — where the practices have caused serious harm, and would carry up to five years’ imprisonment.
The justice minister said the bill was “carefully designed” to ensure health practitioners providing health services will not be captured; nor will people providing legitimate counseling, support and advice.