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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Explained: The New Zealand legislation introduced to ban LGBT conversion therapy

Abiding by a promise made by the Labour Party in the last elections, the bill was introduced by Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi on Friday (July 30).

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 3, 2021 11:42:57 am

New Zealand has introduced legislation seeking to ban conversion therapy, which refers to the practice of trying to “cure” people of their sexuality, gender expression, or LGBTQI identity.

The legislation has been initiated to “protect against practices intended to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”, stated a New Zealand government press release.

Abiding by a promise made by the Labour Party in the last elections, the bill was on Friday (July 30 introduced by justice minister Kris Faafoi, who said: “Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand.”

What is the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill?

The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill aims at preventing any harm caused by conversion therapy and promote healthy discussions on gender and sexuality. The bill also provides for civil redress.

The bill proposes to make an offence to perform conversion therapy on children, youngsters under the age of 18 or anyone with impaired decision-making capacity. The punishment for the offence will be up to three years of imprisonment.

Under the bill, it is also an offence to make anyone go through conversion therapy, irrespective of their age, and cause them serious harm. The punishment of this offence will be up to five years of imprisonment. Although, the bill is unclear on what “serious harm” means.

According to the government’s press release, “These criminal offences are intended to capture particularly serious cases and to send a clear message that conversion practices are unacceptable and should not be occurring in New Zealand.”

There is also an option of civil redress under which conversion therapy complaints can be filed with the Human Rights Commission, where they will try to “facilitate a resolution”. If the complaint cannot be resolved it would be taken to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. The Tribunal will “grant a range of remedies, such as a declaration that a wrong has occurred, an order restraining a person or organisation from continuing to perform conversion practices or an award of damages”.

The Human Rights Commission would play a significant role in educating about conversion practices and in help survivors access any support that they need.

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For a practice to be considered as a conversion therapy practice, according to the press release, it should meet “ALL of the following elements, which state that a practice is: directed towards someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; performed with the intention of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

This excludes the practices carried out by healthcare workers and practices like assisting someone going through gender transition or helping someone in identity exploration.

It also excludes, “The expression only of a religious principle or belief made to an individual that is not intended to change or suppress the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Which are the other countries that have banned conversion therapy?

New Zealand is not the first city to impose a ban on conversion therapy practices. Other countries that have, over the years, imposed a ban on such practices are Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan. Germany passed a ban on advertising and the practice of conversion therapy in minors, in May last year.

Other than these countries, 20 states in the US and a few cities in the US, Canada, Australia and Spain have banned the practice.

“What we are doing is in line with prohibitions put in place 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,” said Faafoi.

Conversion practices continue to remain legal in some US states and parts of the UK.

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What is conversion therapy and how it causes harm?

Conversion therapy is a practice, usually carried out by religious or conservative groups, of “curing” people of their sexual orientations, and gender expression and identity.

A report by United Nations Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (IESOGI) states, “Conversion therapy is used as an umbrella term to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature, all of which have in common the belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) can and should be changed.”

The report adds that practices of conversion therapy “are deeply harmful interventions that rely on the medically false idea that LGBT and other gender-diverse persons are sick, inflicting severe pain and suffering, and resulting in long-lasting psychological and physical damage.”

A study by American Medical Association (AMA), shows that 77 per cent of people who have been a victim of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) report significant long-term harm — depression, anxiety. lowered self-esteem, internalized homophobia, self-blame, intrusive imagery, sexual dysfunction, alienation, loneliness, social isolation, interference with intimate relationships and loss of social supports.

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