Thu, Apr 05, 2018 - Page 5 News List

NZ passes law to quash historic gay convictions

RIGHTING WRONGS:New Zealand Minister of Justice Andrew Little apologized to all the people who have been affected by the stigma caused by the convictions

AFP, WELLINGTON

New Zealand’s parliament has passed legislation to erase historic convictions for engaging in gay sex, saying the bill would help right past injustices.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in New Zealand in 1986, but men who were convicted before then still had the offense listed on their official records.

Lawmakers late on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill allowing those convicted of consensual gay sex to have their records expunged.

“I would like to apologize 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 offenses,” New Zealand Minister of Justice Andrew Little said.

“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,” Little said.

The New Zealand Ministry of Justice said the convictions related to three offenses that were dropped in 1986 — sodomy, indecency between males and keeping a place of resort for homosexual acts.

It estimated about 1,000 people will be eligible to apply to have their records cleared when the scheme takes effect next year.

To qualify, the sex that led to the conviction must have been consensual and taken place between those aged 16 years or older.

The repealed laws were first introduced in 1908. Under the new scheme, family members can also apply to have the records of a deceased relative cleared.

The scheme refers to men because the old laws specifically banned sex between males. Lesbianism was not illegal, although gay women also suffered social discrimination.

New Zealand passed laws banning discrimination against gays in 1993, and in 2013 became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage.

Britain last year enacted “Turing’s Law,” giving a blanket posthumous pardon to almost 50,000 men convicted under old laws in England and Wales.

Named after the World War II code-breaker and mathematician Alan Turing, it also allows living people to have their convictions erased, although they must apply individually.

Turing in 2013 received a posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth II over a conviction in 1952 for gross indecency with a 19-year-old man, triggering calls for a blanket pardon for other men.

A number of Australian states, including New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, have also quashed historical convictions for homosexuality.

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