Justice Minister Kris Faafoi unable to confirm if conversion therapy ban covers kids taking hormone blockers

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi is unable to confirm if the ban on conversion practices will cover parents preventing their kids from taking hormone blockers. 

Under the law announced last week, performing conversion practices intended to change or suppress someone's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, could result in a prison sentence of up to five years. 

The ban was welcomed by LGBTQI+ advocates who say conversion practices are harmful and can lead to suicidal thoughts. 

But Faafoi is under pressure to confirm whether the ban will apply to parents stopping their children from taking puberty suppressants - medication that delays unwanted physical changes that don't match someone's gender identity.

During an interview with Newstalk ZB's Heather du Pleissis-Allan, Faafoi was repeatedly asked if parents would be prosecuted under the law for preventing their kids from taking hormone blockers, but the Justice Minister could not give a yes or no answer. 

Faafoi was initially asked if it was "cool" with him if parents were charged for doing that, to which the Justice Minister replied: "No, it's not."

Faafoi was then asked to clarify his response - but he wasn't so specific. 

"If they have sexual orientation issues or gender identity issues, what we don't want is in some of those situations either a priest or a parent, or the rugby coach down the road, forcing their opinion in an attempt to change somebody else's identity.

"Parents are having these discussions with children under 18 as we speak. Most of them are healthy. Parents have a responsibility to keep their children safe.

"Police will do their thing and try and make sure there is a case around intent to try and change someone's or suppress someone's gender identity. Then the Attorney-General of New Zealand has to give consent for that case or prosecution to go ahead."

Faafoi's comments caused alarm. 

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi.
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"Kris Faafoi needs to urgently clarify the comments he made on Newstalk ZB this evening about parents being unable to deny their children hormone blockers," said ACT leader David Seymour. 

"He was asked repeatedly to clarify whether this was correct and wouldn't give a clear answer. This sort of confusion only undermines the Bill and will leave parents feeling terrified that they won't be able to parent."

Faafoi was asked to clarify his remarks on Monday, but he gave a similar response. 

"I made it very clear on the weekend that the purpose of the Bill is to make sure that we're having open discussions and responsible discussions about conversion practices, especially with young people and vulnerable people.

"The way that we have designed the system isn't targeted towards criminalising anyone. It's about making sure that we give the ability for those discussions to have. 

"There's a very long process before anyone would see the inside of a courtroom and that includes getting the consent of the Attorney-General as to whether or not the public interest test has been met to take a criminal case.

"We don't want people to be criminalised about this. We want the harm that is being done by conversion practices, which there is strong evidence that is happening and the fact the conversion practices don't work, to be the main purpose of this Bill."

Despite the lack of clarity, ACT is supporting the legislation, alongside the Greens and the Māori Party. The National Party is yet to announce their decision. 

"ACT agrees that nobody should be forced into treatment to try to change their sexuality. Those practices are wrong and should be outlawed," said ACT MP Nicole McKee. 

But McKee wants clarity around hormone blockers. 

"Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has been unable to say whether parents will be criminalised if they stop their own child from taking medication that would take a huge toll on their bodies. Parents should be able to parent their children without the threat of being criminalised."