New Zealand passes ban on ‘conversion therapy’

15, February 2022

The Parliament of New Zealand has passed a Bill which will ban ‘conversion practices’.

The Bill makes it illegal to carry out such practices on under-18s and those lacking decision making capacity. It includes adults in any instances which knowingly or recklessly cause ‘serious harm’.

Those who are convicted of the offences could be sent to prison for up to three years, increasing to five years where serious harm is caused.

‘prayer-based practice’

The Bill offers examples of ‘conversion practices’ that it intends to outlaw. One such example is: “carrying out a prayer-based practice … intending to change or suppress an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”.

Commenting on the Bill, Dr Stuart Lange says, “In not specifically excluding prayer, the law compromises freedom of religion".

The Bill excludes from its definition “the expression only of a religious principle or belief made to an individual that is not intended to change or suppress the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”. So persuading someone to uphold the Bible’s teaching, or stating a belief that a person should change their actions, could be covered.

During its examination of the Bill, the Justice Committee said that conversations within religious groups would not “meet the criteria for what the bill defines as a ‘conversion practice’”. But legal advice given to the Attorney General stated that it would pose “a significant limitation on freedom of expression, and a lesser limitation on manifestation of religion”.

‘doesn’t go far enough’

The Bill passed with only eight MPs voting against. Yet some MPs say the Bill still doesn’t go far enough to ‘protect LGBT people’.

One MP is reported as saying the Bill is not “the be all and end all”. The report says: “It may be amended in future, and the [legislative history] of the bill found in select committee reports can be used to hold the Government to account when the law is practised.”

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