New Zealand to clear records of men convicted of homosexuality

2017-02-09 15:53
The New Zealand flag flies outside Parliament buildings in Wellington. (Marty Melville/AFP)

The New Zealand flag flies outside Parliament buildings in Wellington. (Marty Melville/AFP)

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Wellington – Men in New Zealand who were convicted of homosexuality more than three decades ago when it was considered a crime will soon be able to have their records cleared.

Justice Minister Amy Adams on Thursday announced a scheme to wipe clean the criminal records of people convicted of indecency, sodomy or providing a place for homosexual acts.

She apologised to those who'd been convicted but said they would not receive any compensation.

The scheme is broadly supported by lawmakers and is expected to be approved by Parliament. Adams estimated about 1 000 gay men would be eligible to have their convictions quashed.

In New Zealand, homosexuality was decriminalised in 1986 and same-sex marriage legalised in 2013. Sex between women was never explicitly illegal under New Zealand law.

'Righting long-standing wrong'

"There is no doubt that homosexual New Zealanders who were convicted and branded as criminals for consensual activity suffered tremendous hurt and stigma," Adams told reporters. "We are sorry for what those men and their families have gone through."

Adams said the scheme was the first of its kind in New Zealand and had important legal and constitutional implications. She said it was possible to look back with hindsight and question whether it should have been done earlier.

"We think this is a case where society is strongly of the view now that this should not have been regarded as a conviction, even though that was the law at the time," she said.

Those with convictions will still need to apply to have them wiped and have their cases assessed. That is because the law at the time didn't distinguish between consensual and nonconsensual homosexual activity, Adams said.

Opposition lawmaker Grant Robertson, who is openly gay, supported the move.

"This is really good news," he tweeted. "Congrats to Amy Adams on righting this long-standing wrong."

Read more on:    new zealand  |  lgbti rights
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