New Zealand Latest Nation to Ban Conversion Therapy

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday February 16, 2022

New Zealand has become the latest nation to ban the pseudoscientific practice of so-called "conversion therapy." The bill passed on Feb. 15 with near-unanimity in the New Zealand parliament, on a vote of 112 to eight, CNN reported.

The new law, which fulfills a re-election promise made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, "bans practices intended to forcibly change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression," CNN detailed.

The measure protects children under the age of 18 and individuals with "impaired decision-making capacity," CNN noted, and provides for prison terms of up to three years for those who break the law.

The new law also bans such practices on people of any age "where the practices have caused serious harm," with even steeper prison time — up to five years — being the penalty.

At the same time, the new law also "lays out what is not conversion practice," CNN relayed, "and protects the right to express opinion, belief, religious belief or principle which is not intended to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."

Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi hailed the passage of the bill, saying, "This is a great day for New Zealand's rainbow communities."

Openly gay Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson addressed lawmakers with a recollection of his own coming out experience, which he said was "met with love" by his religious parents, "but not everyone is or was so lucky," reported UK newspaper The Guardian.

"To all those who have been affected by conversion practices or attempts at them, we want to say, this legislation is for you," Robertson added. "We cannot bring you back, we cannot undo all of the hurt, but we can make sure that for the generations to come, we provide the support and love you did not get and protect you from the harm of those who seek to try to stop you from being who you are."

Conversion therapy has been outlawed in at least 20 states in the U.S., as well as in a number of municipalities.

"Multiple professional bodies including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Counseling Association have over the past 20 years denounced conversion therapy and determined it to be deliberately harmful and abusive to clients who are subjected to the practice," an article from The Conversation said.

"A 2020 study from the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who experienced conversion therapy were almost twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and to have attempted suicide," The Conversation added.

Survivors of conversion therapy have described harrowing and traumatic experiences. Methodologies of conversion therapy can include "talk therapy, hypnosis, electric shocks and fasting," CNN noted. "In extreme cases, exorcism and 'corrective rape' for lesbians, have been documented."

New Zealand's ban follows the one France enacted earlier this year. Last December, Canada also banned the quack practice.

Other nations that "partially or fully outlaw" the practice include "Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, Albania and Germany," with "Argentina, Fiji, Nauru, Uruguay, Samoa and Switzerland, as well as Taiwan" having indirect bans," according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.