After several years of advocacy and petitions that many of you signed, the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill recently had its first reading in parliament.
We now have until 8th September 2021 to make submissions to the Justice Select Committee who will be looking to hear what the public has to say about this bill. Unfortunately, we know that many groups are organising to send submissions that oppose the bill. This makes it more important than ever to have your say in support of banning conversion practices in Aotearoa. We do believe there is an opportunity to improve the draft legislation and have made some suggestions for this further down in this post. Now is the time to have your say!
You can read the proposed bill here: https://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2021/0056/latest/whole.html#LMS487211
You can view the Regulatory Impact Statement with more background information and advice that was provided to Government on this bill here:
You can choose whether to submit as an individual or on behalf of an organisation.
You can choose to make an oral submission alongside your written submission if you wish. This means attending the select committee to speak on your submission in person or via Zoom for a few minutes. The select committee then has the opportunity to ask you questions.
Only tick yes to making an oral submission if this is something you are interested in doing. If you are providing an oral submission, the select committee does not want you to just read out your submission. Instead it can be an opportunity to go more in depth, focus on particular points or share a personal story.
The submission form asks for comments and recommendations. The select committee prefers not to receive a lot of submissions that have been copied and pasted or say the same thing. It is best to write in your own words why it is important that conversion practices are banned in the comments section. It does not have to be long, write about the issues you care the most about, or have the most knowledge on. Personal stories can have a real impact but to ensure privacy please do not name individuals.
In the recommendations section you will have an opportunity to make suggestions on how the bill could be improved. There are a range of ideas about this and we encourage you to think about what is important to you and your communities and write about those.
Some of the things InsideOUT is considering as important suggestions are as follows:
- Changing the meaning of conversion practices under 5 (1) (b) to include innate variations of sex characteristics (in other words, intersex people).
- Options that were not considered for the bill included “the inclusion of practices in relation to sex characteristics and surgical sex assignment of intersex children as that is more appropriately addressed through the health system than the justice system.”
- Interventions performed on intersex bodies are not just a health issue – this is a social issue. The pervasive origins of medical interventions on intersex people are influenced by psychosocial rationals such as homophobia and transphobia. Justice has as much responsibility here as do all government departments when it comes to the ceasing the coercive treatment of intersex infants, young people and their families. See UNCRC recommendations 25.c.
- Amend 5 (2) (a) to ensure health practitioners who are actively carrying out conversion practices are not exempt from the bill. The Counting Ourselves study showed that 17% of trans and non-binary people in Aotearoa had had a professional try to stop them from being trans or non-binary. This shows that existing legislation and processes like the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights have not prevented conversion practices towards trans people in medical settings.
- Including something in the bill to ensure survivors of conversion practices (including those subject to conversion practices prior to legislation passing) are eligible for psychosocial support, whether this be counselling through ACC or a specialist rainbow provider such as OutLine.
- Highlighting the importance and funding of education for parents, whānau, communities and medical professionals about rainbow identities and inclusion as a prevention tool.
- Resourcing the Human Rights Commission to create a specific pathway for the civil redress process, recognising that the current disputes process will not be appropriate for addressing conversion practices. It is important that rainbow communities are resourced to be involved in informing this process.
- Create a clearer definition of ‘serious harm’ so this is not left open for interpretation.
- Ensure that the legislation supports a review process for the bill – for example the processes and how effective they are will be reviewed within five years to allow for changes as necessary.
- The current bill is focused on individuals but we know that conversion practices are often offered by organisations such as churches. Adding the ability to remove charitable status of an organisation that promotes, engages in or refers people to conversion practices within the legislation would be a means of preventing organisations from engaging with conversion practices and create a real consequence if they do.
- The National Party has been advocating for an exemption for parents in the bill. We know that, unfortunately, parents are sometimes part of the problem in terms of engaging with conversion practices and services in relation to our young people. Under the draft legislation it is very unlikely that parents would face criminalisation, however going through the civil redress process could be a useful way for them to gain education and restore positive relationships with their children. It is important to ensure the legislation does not include an exemption for parents in light of these reasons.
- Many religious groups are sending in submissions that oppose the bill. Religious settings are where a large number of conversion practices occur. We do not believe there should be any exemptions for religious people or groups in the bill.
- We support Section 10 – meaning that consent is not a defence when it comes to conversion practices – and believe it is important that this is retained in the legislation.
You may want to consider writing about some of the ideas above in the recommendations section of your submission. This is not an exclusive list, just some of the key areas InsideOUT believes are important to address.
Thank you for doing your part to help end conversion practices in Aotearoa and ensuring we have the best possible legislation to help us do so!