Before 1986, homosexual activity was a crime. Men who were caught by police having sex with other men were usually found guilty and convicted. This meant they had a criminal record. In 1986, Parliament passed a law so that it was no longer a crime if it was consensual. Consensual means they had both given their consent, were over the age of 16 and it was not rape.
Having a conviction made it difficult to travel to another country where you have to declare you have never been convicted of a crime. It sometimes made it difficult to get a job. It carried a sense of shame. No one wants to have a criminal conviction. Homosexuals who had not been convicted lived in fear that one day they could be arrested.
These days, consensual acts between those over the age of 16 are nobody’s business except the people involved. People are no longer afraid to say they are gay.
Tomorrow, Parliament will pass a law to expunge those convictions. Expunge is a legal word meaning, wipe or delete. Anyone who was convicted can apply to have that conviction expunged from their record. Relatives can apply if the person is dead. They may receive an apology from the government but no compensation. We are following what has happened in some other countries, like England and Wales and some Australian States.
The bill to expunge these convictions was introduced by the Justice Minister, Amy Adams, last June when the National Party was in government. The Minister of Justice today is Andrew Little and he expects the law will be passed unanimously, that is by all MPs.
• a criminal record (n) – a permanent, legal statement about someone’s past
• declare – say
• convict (v), found guilty; a conviction (n) – receiving a guilty verdict from a judge
• compensation (n)- money for the suffering