A number of representatives from University of Auckland student organisations attended the Big Gay Out at Coyle Park on the 14th of February.
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences students and rainbow representatives, university wellbeing ambassadors and Auckland University Students’ Association Queer Rights Officer Lavi Abitbol were all in attendance, along with a large number of University of Auckland students.
The event, attended by over 12,000 people, is held annually by the New Zealand Aids Foundation. This year on the same day, Green MP and spokesperson for Rainbow Communities Dr Elizabeth Kerekere launched a petition to ban conversion therapy, asserting that “There is no place for conversion therapy in Aotearoa” in a statement.
Conversion therapy, a practice that aims at changing an individual’s sexual orientation, is not backed by any scientific data or research. New Zealanders who have experienced conversion therapy have reported severe physical and emotional abuse and manipulation in many instances. The practice has been deemed harmful by a number of New Zealand medical organisations, such as the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the Aotearoa Association of Social Workers and the New Zealand Association of Counsellors.
Since its launch, the petition has gained over 150,000 signatures. Speaking to Craccum, AUSA Queer Rights Officer Lavi Abitbol confirmed that the AUSA is in full support of banning conversion therapy, but emphasised that the ban is only the first step of many.
“In order to completely get rid of conversion therapy, we need a cultural change. We need to address the heterosexist structures that exist in our society. And we need to do this in a way that takes into account the different intersections that exist in people’s lives (e.g. religion, ethnicity, race, gender, sex characteristics, etc).”
Following the petition’s success, the Labour government has announced plans to bring forward its timeline on banning conversion therapy. The process is now set to begin in mid-2021. Kerekere welcomed the move, stating that “waiting until the end of the year to introduce legislation was never acceptable. In the time it takes to pass law, that timeline would have meant the practice was legal right up until late 2022. This would have been two more years of torture for our Rainbow community that was entirely avoidable.”
However, Kerekere highlighted that there is still a need to ensure that legislation is comprehensive and does not include loopholes or exemptions which would allow the practice of conversion therapy to continue.
As well as Labour and the Greens, the Māori Party has also supported banning conversion therapy, expressing support for a ban before the 2020 General Election. The National Party eventually agreed with banning conversion therapy in February this year. The ACT party has refused to support a ban on conversion therapy.
The University of Auckland has a number of support services and resources available for LGBTQITakatāpui+ students and staff. For more information regarding this support, visit the University of Auckland website.
Photo credit: The University of Auckland’s Equity Office Te Ara Tautika