New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has committed to banning conversion therapy by the end of this year, after criticism that the government was ‘flip-flopping’ on the issue.
Speaking in Waitangi ahead of Waitangi Day – New Zealand’s national founding day – tomorrow, February 6, Arden promised that the government was ‘working on that policy now’ and gave a timeframe for the introduction of a ban for the first time, confirming ‘I want to see that legislation in the House this year.’
A total ban on conversion therapy was a manifesto pledge in the governing Labour Party’s 2020 election campaign, however the government has since faced criticism over a lack of concrete proposals for how and when the ban would be introduced. Speaking at the start of the country’s Pride month earlier this week, Auckland Pride Director Max Tweedie urged the government to take action ‘as soon as possible’.
He said, as per Stuff:
The really frustrating thing is that while there are flip flops on it and it goes around in circles, there are queer people who are experiencing conversion therapy who may not have had to have it, had the Government acted a year ago or two years ago.
At this point there’s no excuse, they need to just let it go through the process so it can be in law as soon as possible.
On Wednesday, Ardern denied that her government was delaying the process unnecessarily, saying that it was important that the law did not inadvertently cause more harm by being rushed through. ‘We’ve committed to reform in this area, but we want to get it right,’ she said, adding that ‘if we don’t get the law right, we won’t have the positive impact we need to have’.
She also rejected claims from opposition politicians that a ban would represent an attack on free speech in the country, saying that it was necessary to protect LGBTQ+ New Zealanders from physical and psychological harm.
‘We know that conversion therapy has a harmful impact on our rainbow community,’ Ardern said. ‘We know that we have higher rates of self-harm and suicide in that community. So I consider that we have an obligation to fix this issue and reduce harm.’
Her comments came a day before the state of Victoria in neighbouring Australia officially passed a law banning conversion therapy practices in all settings, establishing what activists have described as the ‘gold-standard’ for anti-conversion therapy legislation.
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