Bill to protect against conversion practices passes third reading

Legislation to protect the rights of our rainbow communities and support open and respectful discussion about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression has passed its third reading in Parliament.

“This is a great day for New Zealand’s rainbow communities,” the Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi said.

“Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand.

“Delivering on our 2020 election manifesto commitment to prohibit conversion practices will prevent the harm they cause, provide an avenue for redress, and uphold the human rights of all New Zealanders to live free from discrimination and harm,” Kris Faafoi said.

The Justice Select Committee received nearly 107,000 public submissions on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill – the highest number of public submissions ever received on a piece of legislation in New Zealand.

“The unprecedented number of submissions shows the depth of public feeling about this issue and strong support for the Government’s moves to protect against these harmful practices.

“The legislation incorporates public input at select committee including changes to the definition of conversion practice to clearly describe the kinds of actions that may be captured by the prohibition,” Kris Faafoi said.

The legislation defines a conversion practice as a practice, sustained effort, or treatment that is:

  • directed towards someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and
  • done with the intention of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

The legislation creates two new criminal offences for the most serious cases of harm or where there is heightened risk of harm.

Under the legislation, it will be an offence to perform conversion practices on a child or young person aged under 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity. Such offences would be subject to up to 3 years imprisonment.

It will also be an offence to perform conversion practices on anyone – irrespective of age – where the practices have caused serious harm, and offenders can be subject to up to 5 years imprisonment.

In addition the Bill creates a pathway for civil redress, in recognition that criminal proceedings will not always be an appropriate response to conversion practices.

Civil redress will be an option where complaints about conversion practices could be made to the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

The Human Rights Commission will play an important role in providing education about conversion practices and guide survivors on how to access the support that they may need.

“For clarity, the legislation also lays out what is not conversion practice 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.

“This legislation is not looking to criminalise open and respectful conversations which aim to facilitate help and support where someone is wrestling with their sexuality.

In banning conversion practices in New Zealand, we join other countries around the world in sending a clear message that all people, including young people, deserve to be protected, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

All people, including rainbow communities, deserve to have their rights and dignity protected, and to live their lives freely just as they are,” Kris Faafoi said.

Some parts of the legislation, including the criminal offences, come into force immediately following Royal Assent. The civil provisions relating to the Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Review Tribunal will come into force six months after Royal Assent.