5 Oct 2020

Labour promises ban on conversion therapy, rainbow mental health funding

6:10 pm on 5 October 2020

Labour will ban conversion therapy, work with schools to provide gender neutral bathrooms and make sure healthcare is responsive to the needs of trans, intersex and gender diverse people if it is elected.

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Labour Rainbow spokesperson Tāmati Coffey. Photo: Supplied

In addition, it will invest $4 million in existing Rainbow youth mental health services and review adoption and surrogacy policies with a view to removing discriminatory practices.

Labour Rainbow spokesperson Tāmati Coffey says the party is "relentlessly proud to support Rainbow communities" and has a plan to keep moving towards a more inclusive New Zealand.

"Labour has a proud track record on advancing equal rights; we led the charge on homosexual law reform, civil unions, and marriage equality. We've also made good progress this term by wiping historic homosexual convictions, providing additional funding for targeted mental health support and HIV research, and lifting the cap on gender confirmation surgeries.

"We have advanced a lot this term but there is more work to do to make sure all New Zealanders live free of discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"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.

"Evidence shows it's relatively common and a recent New Zealand survey found that more than one in six participants reported that a professional had tried to stop them from being trans or non-binary.

"Conversion therapy has been linked to severe adverse mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation - that's why it will be banned under a re-elected Labour government.

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

Labour MP Grant Robertson says the government has made serious investments into supporting the young people of the Rainbow community, but more needs to be done.

"Rainbow people still experience higher rates of mental health problems and addictions and we know that we can also have mixed experiences of support from mental health services.

The Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, provides his weekly Treasury update.

Labour MP Grant Robertson. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

"We'll continue to roll out our record mental health package and dedicate $4 million over four years for existing Rainbow youth mental health services so they can better meet demand and provide targeted support during our Covid-19 recovery.

"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," Robertson says.

Labour MP Louisa Wall says gender diverse whānau face significantly poorer health outcomes and services than other New Zealanders.

"A one size fits all approach isn't working, that's why we will further develop specialised services and support for trans, intersex and gender diverse people.

Labour MP Louisa Wall in Albert Park before Our March for Auckland Pride 2020.

Labour MP Louisa Wall in Albert Park before Our March for Auckland Pride 2020. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"Labour will take action so that every young person has a safe place to learn and thrive. We will work with schools on providing gender neutral bathrooms and research has shown fostering belonging in the school environment improves student achievement," Wall says.

Coffey says despite progress being made for Rainbow families, there's still a lot of difficult processes and outdated assumptions in adoption and surrogacy.

"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.

"Labour has committed to reviewing adoption and surrogacy policies and legislation with a view to removing discriminatory practices. I'm looking forward to supporting this work in the next Jacinda Ardern-led Government," Coffey says.

Greens call for Office for Rainbow Communities

Green Party rainbow issues spokesperson Jan Logie said the party had long advocated for an end to conversion therapy, and was pleased to see Labour "finally come on board to stop this harmful practice".

She welcomed the other aspects of Labour's policy as well, saying it was an example of shared values between the two parties, but called for further measures including creating an Office for Rainbow Communities.

"So many other key groups are represented by ministries, departments, or offices, including children, immigrants, Pacific Peoples, women, and disabled people. We must stop leaving Rainbow communities off that list," she said.

"We would also implement the recommendations of the recent Human Rights Commission's PRISM report, including amending the Human Rights Act to stop discrimination based on gender identity and expression."

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