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Commission Prepares For Conversion Practices Response Service

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata / the Human Rights Commission has welcomed the passage of the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill, which passed tonight.

The bill makes it a criminal offence to change or suppress the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of a person who is under 18, or if the practice causes serious harm regardless of age. It also amends the Human Rights Act to expand the Human Rights Commission’s existing functions and provide a civil redress scheme, six months after the bill’s enactment, for those who have experienced conversion practices. The Commission will also develop harm awareness and preventive approaches for conversion practices.

Conversion practices are grounded in erroneous beliefs that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or takatāpui is wrong and needs to be ‘fixed’. They cause considerable harm to those who experience them. The Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, says no person should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“All sexualities, genders and gender expressions are a normal part of our diverse society in Aotearoa, and I am delighted our Parliament has affirmed this by passing this bill. “This legislation sends an unequivocal message that conversion practices, which have destructive and sometimes fatal consequences, have no place in this country.

  “Te Tiriti o Waitangi further recognises tino rangatiratanga over sexuality, gender, and gender expression and no one should experience discrimination because of these characteristics. Prohibiting conversion practices in Aotearoa is part of upholding Te Tiriti.”

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The Human Rights Commission will have six months to establish a conversion practices response services team.

Andre Afamasaga, the manager of the new service, says the Commission will work with survivors and community representatives to ensure it reflects their diverse and complex needs.

“We aim for the service to be survivor-informed, accessible, safe and fair, and see education playing a key role in understanding the conditions that lead to conversion practices says Afamasaga.

He says select committee submissions show there is high engagement and strong views held by people on all sides of the debate. “We look forward to working with relevant groups to develop education approaches. Public discussion must not be fear based. The courage shown by many survivors in their submissions was heart-breaking and inspiring. Their stories and resilience reflect the nuance needed when we talk about conversion practices. We also acknowledge the many volunteer advocates who fought for this day.”

Mr Afamasaga says the New Zealand Police will be responsible for enforcing the law, receiving complaints that meet a criminal threshold and forwarding cases to Crown Law for approval to prosecute.

“We aim to support and work with Police, and other services, over the next few months as we all prepare to respond to this law,” said Mr Afamasaga.

The Human Rights Commission acknowledges the strength and lived experience of people who previously underwent conversion practices for decades before this legislation.

Its civil redress scheme will launch in August 2022.

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