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Really Ending Conversion Practices Requires a Non-carceral Approach

Ending conversion practices in Aotearoa and the harm they cause requires legislative and executive policy solutions that empower and support victims and their communities, not criminalisation. Organise Aotearoa and Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists call for the Government to co-create social policies with communities to genuinely end conversion practices and to remove criminalisation provisions from the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill. We also call on the public to make submissions on the bill in support of these changes.

Conversion practices are torturous processes that leave vulnerable queer people, particularly young queer people and their communities with lasting trauma. The Government has a responsibility to end these practices because the Crown caused these practices to arise by imposing patriarchal capitalism on Aotearoa through colonisation. However, to end conversion practices and redress the harm suffered by victims and their communities, the Government must develop a non-criminalising solutions package.

The Government must create this solutions package through meaningful community consultation that is focused on addressing the root causes of conversion practices, prevention, diversion, cessation, victim support, and partnership in culturally relevant ways for each affected community group. In particular, the Government must prioritise their Te Tiriti relationship with Māori in this community consultation process so that the Government honours Te Tiriti O Waitangi instead of violating it again as it has done for the past 181 years. Such a solutions package must involve substantive funding across Government departments, including, in the least, the Ministries of Health, Education, Immigration, Ethnic Communities, Pacific Peoples, and Te Puni Kōkiri. It must also provide substantive victim support through agencies such as ACC.

In its current form, the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill is an insufficient measure to end conversion practices and will cause further harm. The bill focuses on criminalising these practices, a process effective at punishing individuals but is ineffective in stopping harm from occurring. It does nothing to redress harm to victims through victim support and reharms victims via traumatic interactions with Police, the courts, prisons and immigration services. It also discourages victims from coming forward due to the high standard of proof, risks victims being outed and sets victims against their communities by tying the disclosure of their harm with the spectre of criminalisation.

The bill’s criminalisation measures are also racist, as they will particularly harm queer migrants and their communities because if migrants are found to be guilty of engaging in conversion practices, their imprisonment could be grounds for deportation. This would lead at least to unnecessary family separation and could even perversely expose the victim of conversion practices to further harm if they are forced to return to a country of origin with pervasive and colonial norms of homophobia and transphobia if a family member is deported.

Criminalising conversion practices will also do nothing to deter or reform those who engage in conversion practices, as the many failed attempts at criminalising those who engage in harmful drug use, violence against women and family violence have tragically shown. The bill’s reliance on criminal provisions also risks intensifying the colonial overpolicing and overincarceration of marginalised communities of colour, particularly of Māori and Pasifika, which are a major contributor to the systemic and intergenerational inequities that these communities suffer every day.

Conversion practices are carried out in communities by communities; ending these harmful practices requires a community solution. Flax roots education, support and resourcing can do what incarceration, deportation, and punitive individual-focused actions can not.

We have come to this position following extensive discussion within our membership, particularly with our queer members. We have been unable to consult queer groups regarding this position for reasons of time constraints and capacity.

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