‘We’re Sorry’: New Zealand To Wipe Gay Sex Convictions


new zealand gay sex convictions amy adams justice minister web

New Zealand men with historical gay sex convictions will be able to apply to have them wiped on a case-by-case basis, the country’s government announced on Thursday.

New Zealand decriminalised homosexuality in 1986, but convictions for consensual gay sex offences still remain on many men’s criminal records, potentially affecting their employment and travel.

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New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams (pictured) said under the proposed scheme those men would be able to apply to the Secretary of Justice to have the convictions wiped.

“Homosexual New Zealanders who were convicted and branded as criminals for consensual activity suffered tremendous hurt and stigma, and we’re sorry for what those men and their families have gone through and the continued effect the convictions have had on them,” she told reporters.

“Although we can never undo the impact on the lives of those affected, it’s hoped that this new scheme will provide a pathway for their convictions to be expunged.

“This means people will be treated as if they had never been convicted and removes the ongoing stigma and prejudice.”

Ms Adams said officials had estimated 1000 people would be eligible, but it was only an estimate as digital records only go back to 1980. She said an automatic, blanket approach to wiping the convictions was not possible because the country’s historic laws didn’t distinguish between consensual and non-consensual homosexual acts.

She said the government will introduce legislation to implement the scheme in the coming months and it was expected to come into force in 2018.

Last July, on the 30th anniversary of the country’s decriminalisation of homosexuality, Green Party MP Kevin Hague introduced a 2100-signature petition by LGBTI rights campaigner Wiremu Demchick to Parliament and asked for an official apology to those convicted of consensual homosexual acts before 1986.

“Hundreds of people in New Zealand today still feel the stigma and trauma associated with that time, when people were fired from their jobs, harassed or thrown out of home just for being gay,” Mr Hague said at the time.

The announcement comes after UK laws came into effect at the start of the month allowing men to apply to have similar convictions pardoned.

Thousands of deceased men convicted of homosexuality also received posthumous pardons, including World War II codebreaker Alan Turing and literary legend Oscar Wilde.

In Australia, legislation was introduced in Victoria in 2014 to wipe similar convictions, and last May Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews apologised to men unjustly convicted of homosexuality.

In November, the Queensland government released draft legislation to parliament to expunge similar convictions held by Queensland men.