Labour urged to hurry on promised conversion therapy ban

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The Government won’t say when it plans to roll out long-awaited legislation banning the practice of conversion therapy, despite it being a Labour manifesto pledge at the last election.

The ban is coming, but Justice Minister Kris Faafoi’s office is being tight-lipped about when to expect it, saying they can’t give timeframe for any draft legislation.

In response to queries, Faafoi’s office said it couldn’t yet give a timeframe on when legislation for the ban would be published and introduced.

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Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s been criticised internationally as being based on bad science and medicine and has copped criticism for being harmful to the mental health of the people who undergo it. This has led many countries and states to implement bans.

With Parliament returning from the summer break this month for its first sitting block of 2020, campaigners are calling on the Government to put the ban at the top of the legislative agenda. February is also Pride Month in New Zealand, when a light is shone on LGBT political issues.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has promised to ban conversion therapy.
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has promised to ban conversion therapy.

Auckland Pride director Max Tweedie said that he wanted to see a ban urgently.

“I want to see action as soon as possible.

“The really frustrating thing is that while there are flip flops on it and it goes around in circles, there are queer people who are experiencing conversion therapy who may not have had to have it, had the Government acted a year ago or two years ago,” Tweedie said.

Tweedie, along with Young Labour and Young Greens, petitioned Parliament in its first term to implement a ban.

A select committee report on his petition was delivered to Parliament by the Justice Committee which said that the committee agreed “that conversion therapy is harmful”. However, it was divided about whether to implement a ban.

“[W]e believe more work needs to be done before any decision is taken to ban it. In particular, thought must be given to how to define conversion therapy, who the ban would apply to, and how to ensure that rights relating to freedom of expression and religion were maintained,” the report said.

In 2018, Labour MP Marja Lubeck also lodged a Members' Bill to ban conversion therapy.

Tweedie said there was little more activists could do to get the ban over the line – the final steps needed to be taken by the Government.

“We’ve done everything we can as activists; there’re two petitions with 20,000 signatures, there’s TVNZ’s vote compass poll which said that 72 per cent of voters want it banned immediately, their own party has a draft bill that they worked on in 2018, and there’s an overwhelming majority in Parliament that want it banned – three out of the five parties – at this point what else do you need?” Tweedie said.

“At this point there’s no excuse, they need to just let it go through the process so it can be in law as soon as possible,” he said.