New Zealand’s governement announced its firm commitment to ban conversion therapy and other practices aimed at suppressing individuals’ sexuality or gender identity.

What is conversion therapy?

Conversion therapy is a practice aimed at actively changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity so they fit within hetero-normative standards.

The harmful treatment can lead to devastating lifelong consequences for the victims such as depression, self-harming behaviours, drug use and suicide.

A win for the Green Party and the Rainbow community

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, which was dissatisfied with the Government’s lack of action regarding the issue, welcomed the motion to end the practice.

Rainbow spokeswoman Elizabeth Kerekere attributes the win to the petition launched by the Green Party calling for urgency to ban the harmful practice.

You can find the petition by clicking here.

As of today, the petition has received over 150,000 signatures. The attention makes it clear that people take this issue to heart and want action to be taken as soon as possible.

“This petition will help ensure the voices of those Rainbow people who have been subjected to these awful practices will be heard.”, she said when submitting the petition.

“Rainbow people are being hurt and traumatised right now. Waiting to introduce this legislation risks the lives of those who are being their true, authentic selves.

The timeframe and the work ahead

On February 22th, Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi declared that the Government planned to present legislation to Parliament by the middle of the year. He affirmed the process would be made so that conversion therapy is outlawed by early 2022 at the latest.

The demands for legislation to be changed came in after a New Zealand television show revealed that there were organisations offering to ”heal” people of homosexuality or their gender nonconformity.

“There is no therapeutic purpose or medical basis for these conversion practices, which can cause real and lasting damage, particularly for vulnerable young people who are often the victims of these practices,” said Faafoi according to OutinPerth.

The work at hand includes examining issues such as how to define “conversion practices”, how legal protections would work and who they would apply to, the minister stated. Furthermore, the proposed law will need to determine whether the offence would be regulated by civil law as well as criminal law.

For Elizabeth Kerekere, the timeframe is a reassuring sign for the LGBTQ+ community of New Zealand.

“Getting law underway in a few months and passed by the start of next year is a reasonable timeline. This ensures that survivors can share their stories and feed into the law-making process. It helps to minimise ongoing harm and sends a clear message to those who promote such practices.,”, reported OutinPerth.

“So often people say we support the community… and then the Government gets in and nothing happens,” said Kerekere according to the NZherald.

“There is a relief that people can feel to see that there’s a set time.”

The ban needs to protect all affected communities

“For the Green Party, and the affected communities, the focus will now be to ensure the Bill is robust and protects all of us. That means no religious exemptions, because we know the vast majority of these practices happen in churches and other religious settings.

Kerekere has also recognized that conversion therapies were also happening within other communities, such as the disabled community. She said that the Green Party is willing to work with the disability sector in order to ensure that all voices are heard.

According to the NZherald, the Ministry of Justice stated that there would be opportunities for public submission and scrutiny through the committee process.

Maëli Coutu-Lupien

Maëli Coutu-Lupien is currently pursuing a BA in International relations and International Law at UQAM. She obtained her BA in Linguistics with a Minor in German in 2019 from the University of Concordia. In 2019, she worked as a Media and relations intern at the Embassy of Canada in Washington D.C. In her free time, she enjoys reading, taking walks in nature and kayaking.

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