Laws that affect queer people
Most laws apply to people regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, but there are a few laws that are specific to queer people. These are mainly interested in safeguarding and protecting you from discrimination.
Ban on conversion practices
What is a conversion practice?
In New Zealand law, conversion practice is any treatment or practice that intends to “change or suppress” your sexual orientation, gender, or gender expression. It doesn’t have to be over a long period of time, the main thing is that it’s done on purpose. Some examples include:
- praying for changes to your sexual orientation, gender, or gender expression
- disciplining you for your sexual orientation, gender, or gender expression
- shaming you for your sexual orientation, gender, or gender expression.
The law also sets out what doesn’t count as conversion practice. Some examples of what conversion practice doesn’t include:
- your health practitioner offering professional judgement and advice around your gender or sexuality
- a person expressing their personal religious beliefs, without targeting you specifically
The law doesn’t currently cover surgeries on intersex babies, or healthcare settings in general. However, if a medical provider tries to make you not be trans, or refuses to give you all the information you ask for and doesn’t refer you to someone who will, then they may be in breach of the Health and Disability Commission’s rules. You can complain to the Health and Disability Commissioner if this happens (see: “Health and disability services: Your rights and how to enforce them” for more information).
What can I do if I’ve experienced conversion practice?
If you’ve experienced conversion practice, you can complain to the Human Rights Commission, or go to the police.
The Human Rights Commission can provide free and confidential mediation between you and the other person. The goal of this is to remedy the harm and stop it from happening again.
If mediation doesn’t work, you can go to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. For this, you can apply for free legal representation from the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings. The Tribunal has the same rights as a court. They can order the other person to pay you compensation or issue a formal apology.
The other person won’t go to jail or get a criminal conviction if you go through the Human Rights Commission.
- If you go to the police and the other party is found guilty, they will get a criminal conviction. To be found guilty, the court will need to find that conversion practice happened, and:
- the person caused you serious harm. This harm could be physical, emotional, or psychological, or
- you were under 18 years old, or didn’t have the capacity to understand how the conversion practice would impact you when it took place.