Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern doesn't rule out parents facing charges under conversion therapy ban

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern isn't ruling out parents facing prosecution for preventing their children from taking hormone blockers under a law banning conversion practices. 

The potential for parents to face charges under the law is the reason National voted against the legislation at first reading, but Labour's huge majority in Parliament means it doesn't need support from other parties anyway. 

Under the law, 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 legislation impact statement reads: "It would be a criminal offence for parents or other members of a family to attempt to change or suppress the sexual orientation, gender identity or expression of children within the family."

National stood alone last week as the only party not to support the law, after Justice Minister Kris Faafoi was repeatedly unable to confirm if the conversion therapy ban applied to parents telling their kids not to take hormone blockers. 

Ardern, when asked by reporters on Monday to set the record straight, was also unable to give a concrete answer. 

"Look, these are issues that they're absolutely able to raise and questions they're able to raise," she said. "Does it remove their ability to support this Bill continuing to be discussed and debated at select committee? No, and I would have hoped they would have done so."

Ardern was asked to confirm if parents could face charges if they prevent their children from taking hormone blockers, like National MPs have suggested. 

"Well look, from the description of our law, you have to demonstrate that there has been a willful desire to suppress someone's identity, that it's affecting someone who's both underage and seriously harming them, and before a prosecution could be laid, it would have to be approved by the Attorney-General," she said. 

"The bar is very high."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at her post-Cabinet press conference.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at her post-Cabinet press conference. Photo credit: Newshub

Ardern was asked again to confirm if the scenario National proposed could happen. 

"My view is what's been thrown up here is one example that in my mind could be worked through at select committee to see whether or not that is a legitimate concern," she said. 

"I'm challenging them to come to the table at select committee to work those issues through... That seems to me to be a very unlikely scenario."

The Greens, ACT and the Māori Party all supported the legislation through its first reading, to then hash out any concerns during the select committee process. But National voted against it, to highlight its concerns for parents.

"Look, every other party in Parliament signed up to vote for it in the first reading," leader Judith Collins told Magic Talk, "but I'm buggered if I'm going to vote for anything that criminalises parents trying to give advice to their kids."

Collins said National took a different approach to make its position known. 

"It's already going to select committee. We've only got 33 votes and there's an overwhelming majority to get it there. But we want to make it really clear to the Government and their anti-parenting type behaviour, and anti-parents frankly, that we will not stand by and allow this to happen without making such a song and dance about it that the whole of the public knows.

"No one would be talking about it now if we hadn't stood up for parents."

Ardern said she found that "disappointing". 

"I'm hugely disappointed that would be used as a rationale not to support this Bill when the National Party knows full well that the intent of this Bill is, for instance, to try and prevent the suppression of someone's sexuality or gender identity by forms from everything to exorcisms to some even more extreme forms of treatment.

"I was surprised that the National Party chose not to support this Bill at first reading, because it so clearly is directed at addressing an issue that we know exists, that's been raised very legitimately by our rainbow community, and that seeks to protect particularly those young people who we see higher incidence of mental health issues and self-harm.

"I hope that over the course of the select committee process that they may change their position."