'It does lasting damage' - victim of gay conversion therapy

A petition supporting a ban on gay conversion therapy with over 150,000 signatures was handed to...
A petition supporting a ban on gay conversion therapy with over 150,000 signatures was handed to Parliament in February this year. Photo: RNZ
A man who was forced into conversion therapy as a teenager says the government's ban of the practice will help prevent long-lasting suffering.

The government yesterday introduced legislation that will make conversion therapy a criminal act.

The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill will allow complaints for performing conversion practices on another person to be made to the Human Rights Commission under the civil law.

Criminal penalties for more serious infractions would include up to five years in prison for causing serious harm to someone through use of the practice, or up to three years in prison for using it on vulnerable people including those under 18 or those unable to understand the nature of the practice or foresee its consequences.

Paul Stevens was forced into conversion therapy by the church when he was 15 after he told leaders he was gay.

"When you're a young person and you're developing your sense of identity if you have people who are telling you that you need to change something which is actually fundamental about who you are, it does do lasting damage."

The practice of trying to change a person's sexual orientation will be banned under the new law.

It will include religious groups, but they will still be able to freely express their beliefs.

An organisation which provides support to the Rainbow community says conversion therapy takes many forms.

Aych McArdle from Outline said the law needs to clearly explain what is considered conversion therapy and what is not.

Conversion therapy can have significant, life-long impacts, McArdle said.

The bill will have its first reading in Parliament in early August and the government aims to have the legislation passed by early next year.

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