Anti-LGBTQ conversion ‘therapy’ practices are set to be banned in New Zealand, under new legislation introduced on Friday.
The country would join parts of Australia and other regions in moving to outlaw the harmful homophobic and transphobic practices, which are often veiled as counselling or religious guidance.
Conversion practices as extreme as electroshock therapy have been reported.
“Those who have experienced conversion practices talk about ongoing mental health distress, depression, shame and stigma, and even suicidal thoughts,” said Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi, according to The Guardian.
“Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand.
“They are based on the false belief that any person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is broken and in need of fixing.”
The new legislation would ban any conversion practices on a child aged under 18, with a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment.
Any conversion practices causing “serious harm” to a person of any age would also be banned, with jail terms of up to five years possible.
LGBTQ advocates and survivors of conversion therapy have welcomed the bill.
“Every single story that I’ve heard of conversion therapy, victims have questioned whether it is worth living – and I was one of those people,” said Shaneel Lal.
Lal noted some concerns about the wording of the bill – such as that harm that was not “serious” would be permitted – and the potential difficulty that survivors may face in collecting evidence to prove harm from conversion practices.
Practices to attempt to force a person to be heterosexual or cisgender have been denounced by global experts as both cruel and useless.
“[Conversion] has no basis on science or facts,” said Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney-General David Lametti last year.
Action on Canada’s proposed ban on conversion has been delayed, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to outlaw the practices.