Friday, March 09, 2012


There's a bit of a debate in the UK at the moment over whether mathematician Alan Turing - who killed himself in 1954 after being convicted of homosexuality - should receive a posthumous pardon. The government had previously refused on the grounds that it was inappropriate to pardon someone who was "properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence". But now it seems they will look at it again.

Meanwhile, the obvious question remains unasked: why stop at Turing? The "crime" he was convicted of - consensual sex acts with another adult of the same gender - should never have been an offence. But he wasn't the only victim of this unjust and immoral law. Thousands of other UKanians were legally persecuted in this way, and they carry the shame of conviction to this day. Isn't it time that shame was erased? Isn't it time British society admitted it was wrong?

But it doesn't only apply to the UK. Until 1986, gay New Zealanders were prosecuted under a now-expunged section of the Crimes Act. Those convictions still stand, and their victims are wearing them for the rest of their lives (they are not covered by clean slate legislation unless the victim goes to court to have them expunged). Again, isn't it time we erased that shame? Isn't it time we apologised?

A pardon for one person is symbolic, but it allows the legacy of past persecution to continue. If we're serious about having been wrong, if we want to really show that we've changed, then its time we made amends.