New Zealand passes law banning LGBT+ conversion therapy

New Zealand has become the latest country to pass legislation banning conversion therapy based on a person's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill was passed almost unanimously with 112 votes in favour and eight votes opposed.

The government said the legislation will prevent the harm conversion therapies cause to LGBT+ people, as well as "provide an avenue for redress, and uphold the human rights of all New Zealanders to live free from discrimination".

The UK government pledged to ban gay conversion therapy nearly four years ago but, despite publishing its proposals, is yet to do so - pending further consultations.

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

"Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand."

Mr Faafoi said the government received nearly 107,000 public submissions on the bill – the highest number ever received on a piece of legislation in the country.

The bill, introduced by the government last year, finally fulfils Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's election promise of banning conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy, also known as "cure" therapy, refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy aiming to change a person's sexual orientation or suppress a person's gender identity.

It has widely been condemned by medical professionals and campaigners as unethical and dangerous.

Under New Zealand's 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 three years imprisonment.

Jacinda Ardern had promised to ban the therapy if elected Credit: AP

It will also be an offence to perform conversion practices on anyone – irrespective of age – where the practices have caused serious harm, and offenders face up to five years behind bars.

The New Zealand government said 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," it said.

Where else around the world has banned conversion therapy - and will the UK ban it?

Conversion therapies are already banned in several countries, with proposals for legislation put forward in dozens of other countries including the UK.

Last month, France banned conversion therapy and Canada's parliament voted unanimously to ban it last year.

The US does not have a federal ban on the practice but the states of California, Colorado, New York, Washington and Utah legally prohibit it, along with the US Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico.

In 2018, the British Government promised to end conversion therapy as part of its LGBT+ equality plan, with Boris Johnson announcing in 2020 that the plans would be brought forward.

Under the proposals, conversion therapy will be banned in England and Wales for under-18s, and adults who are vulnerable and not able to properly consent.

Progress on the ban has been delayed, however, prompting some of the government key advisors on the issue to resign.

Following the conclusion of another consultation in February, a bill is expected to be drawn up by spring, with the aim of legislating by May. But human rights lawyers have called for it to be criminalised, amid frustration over delays to the pledge.

In 2018, ITV News went undercover at Winners Chapel, where a pastor told our reporter that the devil had made him gay and offered him intensive prayer. 

Watch ITV News' report undercover report from 2018 where a pastor told our reporter 'the devil had made him gay'

Our undercover reporter spent two months attending the church in Dartford - one of the largest in Britain - where several pastors made clear they could help stop him being gay.

He met four in total, with a hidden camera capturing his pre-arranged appointment with Pastor Gbenga Samuel.

He claimed that messages of acceptance we see and hear in modern society about gay people have been "carefully scripted" by Satan, drawing a comparison with the way Germans were brainwashed by Nazi propaganda.

In response to our filming, Winners' Chapel said they would conduct an internal investigation into our allegations. But they denied that they engaged in any form of conversion therapy.

If any of the issues in this article have affected you or someone you know, there is always help available:

  • Switchboard the LGBT+ helpline can provide an information, support and referral services. Their phone line is open every day from 10am-10pm on 0300 330 0630.

  • Samaritans is on hand for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure. They have a free 24 hour helpline on 116 123 and lots of other ways to get in touch.