New Zealand introduced legislation that criminalises the act of changing the sexual orientation of a person. Medically, it is known as LGBT conversion therapy. The bill also proposes to impose a prison time of five years. The proposed legislation aims to stop the practice, which studies reveal to be of no use.
According to Justice Minister Kris Faafoi, LGBT conversion therapy is widely discredited. He said that sex conversion practices are no longer welcome in modern New Zealand. He believes that it is based on the illogical belief that sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is not natural and needs correction.
Medical practitioners, religious groups, human rights activists in New Zealand and other places of the world have highlighted the harmful effects of the procedure. He also added that such things could potentially trigger violent behaviour and perpetuate discriminatory and abusive activities against LGBTQ+ communities.
The new proposed bill aims to penalise the act of performing the conversion on a minor, i.e., a person under 18 years of age and on a person who cannot make a sound decision for himself due to impairment of reasonable prudence. The person performing the procedure may face three years jail term.
Practices that have done serious harm while doing the procedure may attract imprisonment of up to 5 years. The government noted that the bill does not base its rationale on religious expressions or beliefs about the nature of gender and sexuality.
A movement has started against conversion therapy and its ill effects in first-world countries like Australia, Britain, and Canada. The United States doesn’t have a federal law that penalises the act. Still, some states such as California, Colorado, New York, Washington and Utah allow its practice only after following pre-defined rules and procedures.
Empirical evidence and studies published by The American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and American Counselling Association reflect the ineffectiveness and harmful effects of the therapy. Conversion therapy changes a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and can be administered through talking sessions, hypnosis, electric shocks, and fasting. Some of the extreme cases have documented the victim being subject to exorcisms and corrective rape in the case of lesbians.
Putting an end to this diabolical act was one priority list of the election manifesto of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she was running for PM for the second time in 2020.
Reuters conducted a poll in 2019 on outlawing conversion therapy. The motion was supported by 56% of Americans. Brazil, Germany, and Ecuador have banned conversion therapy. Article 151 of the 2014 Penal Code of Ecuador convicts and persons for practising conversion therapy, and the crime attracts ten years of jail term. Administering any corrective measure in this therapy is considered equivalent to torture.
Faafoi also revealed that the Ministry of Justice would consider the public opinion about the subject before passing the bill.