Lawmakers in New Zealand on Friday introduced a bill that would effectively criminalize conversion therapy practices intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The new bill proposes that anyone who practices conversion therapy on minors or those with impaired decision-making ability could face up to three years in prison, Reuters reports. Those practicing conversion methods that result in “serious harm” could face up to five years in prison.
“This bill isn’t about criminalising people. It is about making sure we prevent harm that is happening as a result of these conversion practices,” said the country’s Justice Minister Kris Faafoi in an address to the media.
The bill is not intended to address “expressions of religious beliefs or principles about sexuality and gender.” Instead, Faafoi emphasized that the bill was designed to curb practices that cause harm to individuals, and which are targeted at changing or suppressing their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand,” he added. “They are based on the false belief that any person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is broken and in need of fixing.”
He further stated that the bill was in keeping with similar laws or proposals in other countries, including Germany, Great Britain, and the United States.
While the United States does not have a federal ban on conversion therapy, it is prohibited in certain states, including New York, Colorado, and California. Other states, including Massachusetts and Virginia, has bans on conversion therapy directed toward minors.