NZ Election 2020: Labour announces ban on conversion therapy, plan to help provide gender-neutral bathrooms in schools

NZ Election 2020: Labour announces ban on conversion therapy, plan to help provide gender-neutral bathrooms in schools
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The Labour Party has announced several policies to help New Zealanders "live free of discrimination" based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The policies include banning conversion therapy and working with schools to provide gender-neutral bathrooms.

The party's Rainbow spokesperson Tāmati Coffey says more work needs to be done to "keep moving towards a more inclusive New Zealand".

"We will pass a law to ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is based on the misguided idea that people are wrong or broken because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is fundamentally wrong," he said.

"Conversion therapy has been linked to severe adverse mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

"It is a practice that causes harm and is out of place in the kind, inclusive and modern country we are."

Two petitions were presented to Parliament in 2018 calling for a ban on conversion therapy. The Justice Select Committee responded at the time by saying that while there was agreement that conversion therapy was harmful, "more work needs to be done" before any decision is taken to ban it.

Labour MP Grant Robertson says it hasn't banned the practice during its three years of governing because there wasn't "full government support" for it.

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

"The kind of practices that attempt to change or suppress somebody's sexuality are wrong and we need to make sure that we send a very clear message about that."

Along with the ban, Labour MP Louisa Wall says the party will also take action to ensure "every young person has a safe place to learn and thrive" by helping schools implement gender-neutral bathrooms.

"We will work with schools on providing gender-neutral bathrooms and research has shown fostering belonging in the school environment improves student achievement," she said.

Labour's other policies include investing $4 million over four years for existing LGBTQ youth mental health services. This is to help better meet demand and provide targeted support during the COVID-19 recovery, Robertson says.

"We know the next few years will be hard as we continue to fight our way out of COVID-19, but we are committed to making sure our diverse communities aren't left behind as we recover."

Specialised health services and support for trans, intersex and gender diverse people is also on the agenda since they face "significantly poorer health outcomes and services" compared with other New Zealanders, Wall said.

Adoption and surrogacy policies will also be reviewed since they are "outdated", Coffey said.

"I know from my own experience where my partner and I had to formally adopt our own biological son that we need to modernise the law."

Currently, a person who gives birth to a baby is considered the legal guardian, even if they aren't an 'intending parent'. Therefore, couples who have a baby via surrogacy are required to adopt it in order to be recognised as the child's parents.

"Labour has committed to reviewing adoption and surrogacy policies and legislation with a view to removing discriminatory practices," Coffey said.