Rejoice: Kiwis ban queer conversion therapy

It’s time to bring out the glitter because in a near-unanimous vote, New Zealand parliament passed a bill outlawing queer conversion therapy.

The new law makes performing queer conversion therapy on anyone under the age of 18 or lacking decision-making capacities punishable by up to three years in prison. If the procedure causes “serious harm to the individual”, irrespective of age, the perpetrator faces up to five years in prison.

Our Trans-Tasman friends can now lodge complaints about conversion practices with the country’s Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Review Tribunal. The Labour Party has indicated that this service exists because “prosecution won’t always be the best way to deal with conversion practices.”

Queer rights rally.
Image courtesy: Unsplash.

To absolutely nobody’s surprise, medical institutions have long discredited the practice of changing or suppressing an individual’s sexual orientation, arguing that it lacks scientific backing and exacerbates mental health issues and homelessness.

The American Psychiatric Association, for example, has publicly stated that it “encourages” legislation which bans psychiatric treatment “based on the a priori assumption that diverse sexual orientations and gender identities are mentally ill and should change”.

There was an emotional debate within parliament as many rainbow MPs shared their own stories of growing up queer.

At the bill reading, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged the “hundreds of activists” who had campaigned for years around banning outdated conversation therapy practices.

While he was “met with love” when he came out to his parents, Robertson explained that “not everybody is so lucky. The other group who need to be acknowledged at the outset are those from our rainbow communities who did not make it.” Robertson referenced a work colleague named James – “the sweetest, most gentle man you would ever meet” – whose experience with queerness was vastly different. James took his own life at 23.

The Labour Party had made banning the practice a 2020 campaign promise. On Tuesday 112 MPs voted in support including all those from Labour, ACT, the Green Party and Te Pāti Māori, thank heavens.

The bill received almost 107,000 public submissions – the most for any piece of Kiwi legislation ever. Incredible.

Only three states/territories in Australia have banned queer conversion therapy (Victoria, Queensland and the ACT). Shame!