National | Kris Faafoi

Faafoi reaffirms ban on harmful ‘conversion’ practices

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi says the government aims to end conversion therapy by the end of this year.

“The government has work underway to develop policy that will bring legislation to Parliament by the middle of this year and with the aim of having a ban passed into law by the end of this year, or by February 2022 at the latest,” Faafoi said.

“The fact we are dealing with this issue in the first year of this term of Parliament clearly shows the level of priority it has in our legislative programme and shows our commitment to ban these cruel and damaging practices that can amount to coercion and mental abuse in the misguided belief that a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression needs to be treated or somehow ‘cured’.

“There is no therapeutic purpose or medical basis for these conversion practices, which can cause real and lasting damage, particularly for vulnerable young,” Faafoi said.

Law draft

He confirmed the Ministry of Justice is drawing up a law to create a new criminal and/or civil offence that will prohibit conversion practices. That work requires considering issues like how to define conversion practices, how legal protections would work and for whom, and whether conversion practices should be regulated by civil law in addition to criminal law, and whether civil penalties would be more appropriate.

“We know this is an important issue, which is why we made the manifesto commitment before last year’s election, and we want to ensure the legislation passes as quickly as possible so the rainbow community and all those affected by these abhorrent practices are protected.

“We welcome that both the Green Party and National Party appear to share the government’s position against conversion practices and we hope they’ll work constructively with us to ensure good, fair and robust legislation,” Faafoi said.

The Ministry of Justice will carry out targeted discussions with key stakeholders to ensure that the draft law will be fit for its purpose.

There will be further opportunities for public consultation and scrutiny through the select committee process.