Wellington (AFP) – 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 decriminalised in New Zealand in 1986, but people who were convicted before then still had the offence listed on their official records.
Lawmakers unanimously passed a bill late Tuesday allowing people convicted of consensual homosexual sex to have their records expunged.
“I would like to apologise 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 offences,” Justice Minister 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.”
The justice department said the convictions related to three offences that were dropped in 1986 — sodomy, indecency between males and keeping a place of resort for homosexual acts.
It estimates 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.
Family members can also apply to have the records of a deceased relative cleared.
New Zealand passed laws banning discrimination against gays in 1993 and in 2013 became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise same-sex marriage.