New Zealand has introduced legislation to ban conversion therapy, saying there is “no place in modern New Zealand for this harmful practice”.
Conversion therapy refers to the practice, often by religious groups, of trying to ‘cure’ people of their sexuality, gender expression or LGBTQI identity, reports The Guardian.
“Those who have experienced conversion practices talk about ongoing mental health distress, depression, shame and stigma, and even suicidal thoughts,” said Justice Minister Kris Faafoi when he introduced the legislation last week.
“Conversion practices 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 added.
The new law now makes it an offence to perform conversion practices on anyone aged under 18, or with impaired decision-making capacity, with a sentence of up to three years’ imprisonment. It also makes it an offence to perform conversion practices that cause ‘serious harm,’ irrespective of age. That carries a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment.
Activist Shaneel Lal, a survivor who has campaigned against conversion practices in New Zealand, said proving intent was difficult from a legal perspective, and could leave survivors struggling to clear the bar for prosecution. He also argued the first offence should not have age limits, as queer people could experience harm at any age.
New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD, and that rate is higher among LGBTQI+ youth.
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