New Zealand lawmakers have passed a law allowing all men previously convicted of consensual homosexual sex to have their convictions expunged and their records cleared.
Although the country decriminalised homosexuality in 1986, what was once considered a crime was still a part of official records. This follows on from the official apology the Parliament delivered last year to those men convicted.
The New Zealand Minister for Justice, Andrew Little, read the following in parliament, “I would like to apologise again to all the men and members of the rainbow community who have been affected by the prejudice, stigma and other negative effects caused by convictions for historical homosexual offences.” He continued, “This bill sends a clear signal that discrimination against gay people is no longer acceptable, and that we are committed to putting right wrongs from the past.”
There are estimates around 1,000 people will be affected and can apply from next year to have their records changed. For men who died before the law was introduced, their family members can apply in their name. The sex that led to the conviction must have been consensual and have been between those aged 16 and older.
The convictions would have been related to three offences which were dropped along with decriminalisation – sodomy, indecency between males, and keeping a place of resort for homosexual acts – as in providing a place for the acts to take place. The law refers specifically to gay men as lesbianism was not illegal, although gay women also suffered social discrimination.
There was a poignant message from Minister for Finance, Grant Robertson, himself a gay man. “As a man who has been to live my life relatively freely… who’s able to come to this Parliament and get heckled and abused by the National Party because I’m the finance Minister, not because I’m a gay man.” He continued, “That’s a fantastic advance that is built on the shoulders of those men.”
While the UK, Canada and some Australian states have also introduced pardons, with only Germany has actually approved monetary compensation for those affected.
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