Gays de­serve apol­ogy for years of le­gal op­pres­sion

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS -

Thirty years ago the Ho­mo­sex­ual Law Re­form bill re­ceived the royal as­sent. This makes it sound as though the era of anti­gay bar­barism is now safely buried. It’s not.

Many gay peo­ple still live with the con­se­quences of those times. They suf­fer the long-term dam­age to their psy­che of hav­ing to deny a fun­da­men­tal part of their na­ture. Some also still suf­fer the stigma of a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion.

Cam­paign­ers want a Gov­ern­ment apol­ogy to gay peo­ple for laws now recog­nised as in­de­fen­si­ble. A pe­ti­tion seeks a mass par­don for gay men con­victed un­der those laws.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Amy Adams pre­dictably says this is too hard.

But there is noth­ing stop­ping the Gov­ern­ment from apol­o­gis­ing. It rou­tinely apologises to iwi for deny­ing them their rights.

The Clark Labour Gov­ern­ment apol­o­gised to the Chi­nese com­mu­nity for the racist laws that tar­geted a sin­gle eth­nic group.

Why can’t the Gov­ern­ment apol­o­gise to gays? The laws against them were bru­tal.

A law from 1893 made sodomy pun­ish­able by life in jail with hard labour; ‘‘in­de­cency between males’’ could earn a decade of hard labour and flog­ging. In 1961 the pun­ish­ment for sodomy was re­duced to seven years, and for in­de­cency between males to five.

A pe­ti­tion seeks a par­don for men con­victed of ho­mo­sex­ual acts that are now le­gal. This cam­paign does not seek par­dons for pae­dophiles. No­body will de­fend ho­mo­sex­u­als who slept with chil­dren or com­mit­ted rape.

Adams says the record doesn’t dis­tin­guish clearly between con­sen­sual and forced sex­ual acts. Min­istry of Jus­tice elec­tronic records are said to show that between July 1980 and Au­gust 1986, 879 men were con­victed of ho­mo­sex­ual of­fences.

Nearly 80 per cent were al­legedly con­victed of sex­ual of­fences with males un­der 16, which are still crim­i­nal of­fences. The re­main­ing 20 per cent in­volved males over 16.

These statis­tics, if they can be trusted, don’t sup­port Adams’ claim that ‘‘it’s all too dif­fi­cult’’. The 168 cases in­volv­ing males over 16 should be ex­am­ined to de­ter­mine whether they were con­sen­sual. If they were, the peo­ple in­volved should be par­doned.

Also the elec­tronic record cov­ers only a short pe­riod of his­tory. The mod­ern era of anti­gay leg­is­la­tion goes back to 1961. Gays con­victed dur­ing that pe­riod de­serve con­sid­er­a­tion and the chance of a par­don.

Adams has no ex­cuse for do­ing noth­ing. Jus­tice is at stake.

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