New Zealand’s parliament passed a near-unanimous bill on Tuesday that bans so-called “conversion therapy.” The country joins the likes of other countries that have banned the practice and introduced severe repercussions such as fines and possible jail time.
The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill, which was introduced by the government last year, was passed in Wellington after its third and final reading with 112 votes in favor and eight votes opposed.
The legislation makes it illegal to perform “conversion practices,” which the bill describes as, “practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” Under the legislation, it will be an offense to perform such practices on a child or young person under age 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity. Such offenses would result in up to three years’ imprisonment. It will also be an offense to perform such practices on anyone—regardless of age—where the practices can cause “serious harm.” Such offenses carry a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment.
“This is a great day for New Zealand’s rainbow communities,” Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi, the MP in charge of the bill, told Reuters. “Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand.”
However, many Christians and church leaders throughout the country disagree.
“We will continue to teach our children according to our own Christian values,” Reverend Andrew Moon told Radio New Zealand when the law was introduced last year. “We will teach that LGBT way of life is not the right way of life.”
Moon, who spoke on behalf of Auckland Alliance of Korean Ministers and Churches, continued: “One of our beliefs is that biological gender is a gift from God … like anyone in New Zealand we are free to take care of our children and raise them according to our belief.”
He added that the Auckland Alliance of Korean Ministers and Churches had been working hard to pass on their values and cultural heritage through school and churches.
“Regarding gender and sexuality, parents must have clear authority to [educate] their children on that. If parents should lose their educational authority over their children starting with this, New Zealand families will surely crumble and society will suffer.
“We believe that LGBT people deserve respect and protection but likewise freedom and belief of opposing groups must also be respected and protected.”
Ending conversion therapy was one of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s campaign promises when she was elected for a second term last year. And the government said it received nearly 107,000 public submissions on this bill, the highest number of public submissions ever received on any legislation.
As laws against conversion therapy have been gaining momentum around the world, some countries such as the United States and Australia have not introduced a federal ban on the practice, but have had several states prohibit the practice to some degree.
According to the Daily Mail, as of Thursday, the Australian state of Victoria has banned conversion therapy, making it the third jurisdiction in the country to do so following Queensland and Australian Capital Territory. Anyone in Victoria who attempts to help a person change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity could face criminal charges and possible jail time.
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