NZ Election 2020: Activists praise Labour's commitment to ban conversion therapy

Anti-conversion therapy activists who have pushed for a end to the practice say they're pleased to see Labour has committed to banning it. 

Labour on Monday said it would outlaw conversion therapy if it forms the next government.

The contentious practice is used to try and change, suppress or eliminate someone's gender identity or sexual orientation.

Auckland Pride director Max Tweedie, who has spent two years pushing for a ban including presenting a petition to Parliament, said Labour's announcement couldn't come soon enough. 

"We're looking forward to holding them to account for that and making sure it happens as soon as possible," Tweedie said.

Conversion Therapy Action Group co-founder Shaneel Lal agrees. 

"I think it's quite clear that conversion therapy is state-sanctioned therapy. The message is clear, legislate away the hate."

Conversion therapy is done through many different methods, including prayer.

"We've heard young people say that they pray to God to heal them or kill them," Lal said.

Labour's Rainbow spokesperson Tāmati Coffey says the practice has major impacts on people's mental health.

"It's linked to severe anxiety and depression and even suicide in some cases," Coffey said.

He said all conversion therapy - no matter what it's labelled by groups who use it - "will" be outlawed by Labour.

"It's dangerous and needs to be banned."

Labour MP Grant Robertson admitted on Monday the party had the chance to ban it this term, but not all coalition partners were on board.

"What we are now saying though is that this is something that we will push in government and we will pass legislation," he said.

When asked if New Zealand First put the handbrake on the change, he wouldn't directly answer and said questions should be put to that party about it.

"You'll need to talk to them about that."

Along with banning conversion therapy, Labour will also invest $4 million into existing LGTBQ+ youth mental health services, ensure those services are more responsive for trans, intersex and gender diverse people, help provide gender-neutral bathrooms in schools and remove discriminatory practices from adoption and surrogacy policies.