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Information For Religious Communities On Conversion Practices

Communities having difficulty understanding or implementing the ban on conversion practices are encouraged to reach out for guidance to Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission.

“Our staff have lived experience of religious settings where conversion practices often take place,” says Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.

“They know the strong values that exist in these settings and can help schools, churches and other groups to avoid these practices while continuing to observe their key values.”

Conversion practices are defined as any practice, treatment or sustained effort directed at an individual that seeks to change or suppress that individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. They have been prohibited in Aotearoa New Zealand since February 2022.

The Commission’s Group Manager Andre Afamasaga, who is a former Pastor and conversion practice survivor, says the Commission would much rather groups reach out for guidance than risk operating unlawfully. He says the team brings a cultural lens to the groups they meet with.

“It’s important to us that these conversations are based on the value of manaakitanga. Using a Polynesian cultural metaphor, we can roll out a fala (mat) for concerned groups to have a respectful discussion about the legislation and conversion practices,” says Afamasaga.

According to recent media reports a Northland school has claimed they can no longer support students because of the Conversion Practices Prohibition Act. The school indicated it may close and instead provide guidance to parents for home schooling, implying other schools may follow.

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“There is a misconception that the legislation prohibits people from preaching or praying about their beliefs; that’s incorrect,” says Afamasaga.

“We respect the positive role that religion and spirituality can play in people’s lives and in communities. But we are concerned that religious groups could be misunderstanding the law and our services.

“Our doors are open for us to listen, dialogue and build mutual understanding.”

The legislation prohibiting conversion practices aims to save lives, prevent serious harm, and promote human rights. It is alarming and wrong for it to be used as a reason for a school closing, says Afamasaga.

“Conversion practices cause harm to young people navigating their sexuality or gender by encouraging them to deny inherent parts of themselves. The shame they feel can be overwhelming, cause mental distress, and research shows can lead to suicidal thoughts.”

“Unfortunately, many overlook the stated purpose of the conversion practices legislation which is to promote respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender. It does not shut down freedom of religious expression.”

In addition to receiving complaints, the Commission provides free education and prevention training, and resources about the harm of conversion practices.

“Contact us, we are funded to provide free education and prevention training about conversion practices, which could help dispel some of the misunderstandings we are seeing. We would hate to see unnecessary disruptions to student education and wellbeing, especially after the disruptions caused by COVID and severe weather events” says Afamasaga.

Guidelines are available on the Commission’s website or contact or call 0800 496 877 to leave a message for a call back.


  • The Commission encourages schools to also contact the Ministry of Education if they need advice. The Ministry has comprehensive guidance for special character schools and governance bodies to help them have discussions with their communities in a way that is consistent with the tenets of their faith.

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