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New Zealand eyes to ban conversion therapy with prison sentences for abusers

In New Zealand, a bill has been introduced to ban conversion therapy, making attempts to change a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation punishable with up to five years in prison.

Photo by Adrien Olichon from Unsplash.com

In New Zealand, a bill has been introduced to ban conversion therapy, making attempts to change a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation punishable with up to five years in prison. Specifically, anyone who subjects a minor or a person with impaired decision-making to the practice would face three years imprisonment, while conversion therapy that causes “serious harm”, regardless of age, would be punished with five years.

When the bill was introduced, New Zealand’s minister of justice Kris Faafoi stated that the practice has “no place in modern New Zealand” as “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.”

As it is, “those who have experienced conversion practices talk about ongoing mental health distress, depression, shame and stigma, and even suicidal thoughts.” And so “health professionals, religious leaders and human rights advocates here 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.”

“Conversion therapy” is the most widely-used term used to describe practices attempting to change, suppress or divert one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It is also called reorientation therapy, reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, or, more recently, support for unwanted same-sex attraction or transgender identities.

Medical associations are critical of this practice – e.g. the World Psychiatric Association criticized these as “wholly unethical,” and the Pan American Health Organization warned that they pose “a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.” The Canadian Psychological Association and the World Health Organization also oppose the same, stating that it poses a “severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons.”

Before her 2018 re-election, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden committed to a ban on conversion therapy.

Other countries already deal with this, including Malta, Ecuador, Germany, Brazil and Taiwan. Still other countries are in the process of banning the practice, including Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and the US.

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