The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission (the Commission) appeared in front of the Justice Select Committee yesterday to speak to its written submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill (the Bill).
Speaking on behalf of the Commission, Board member Kevin Hague, noted the Commission’s support for the Bill’s aim to ban conversion practices.
“The Commission welcomes the introduction of this bill to prohibit conversion practices and supports its general intent. We urge the Select Committee to listen carefully to the voices of rainbow communities, including trans people, those with variations of sex characteristics (sometimes known as intersex), and non-binary people, and their calls to clarify and strengthen areas of the Bill,” says Kevin Hague.
The Bill aims to ban conversion practices, which cover a broad range of practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
“We know from listening to rainbow communities that discrimination and prejudice against who they are has a major impact on their mental health and wellbeing and that conversion practices can cause damage across every aspect of their lives. We welcome Government action towards more effective, human rights-based legislation that supports mental wellbeing,” says Kevin Hague.
Among its recommendations, the Commission called for the bill to have a clearer definition of ‘serious harm’ that incorporates physical and mental health, individual wellbeing, and whānau wellbeing.
Hague says it is critical to get the definition right so that there is clear guidance around what is deemed unlawful practice. A clear definition will also mean that victims and survivors will be able to access available support, and that the impact of discrimination and conversion practices on individuals, family, and whānau are acknowledged.
The Commission also recommended that adequate support and complaints advocacy is made available to people who have been subject to conversion therapy. This will provide people with the support they may need to navigate the complex processes involved in seeking civil redress through the Human Rights Commission.
Noting that research undertaken by rainbow communities shows that they experience disproportionately poorer mental health outcomes and are at increased risk of suicide than the general population, the Commission also called for access to appropriate and safe supports for people experiencing mental distress as a result of conversion therapy.
Hague urged the Select Committee to work with those who have lived experience of conversion therapy to come up with solutions for the concerns raised in the Commission’s submission and those made by rainbow communities.