COLUMN: A pardon for homosexuality isn't enough

Pardoning homosexuality isn't good enough '“ an apology doesn't mean equality.

Friday, 10th March 2017, 1:14 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:56 am

The government’s proposed bill to pardon thousands of gay men that were sentenced for crimes that no longer exist has received royal assent.

This means that those currently holding criminal records for consensual, same-sex relationships can request for their record to be wiped clean.

Before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, around 49,000 innocent men were prosecuted and their lives were subject to shame and fear.

Why are we only just addressing this issue? A 50-year wait to be pardoned is neither acceptable or just.

The resentment to recognise LGBT issues is helping to keep homophobia alive. The Tories have done a tremendous job when it comes to sweeping homophobia under the carpet in my view.

In 1994 the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act lowered the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 18. In 2001 it was lowered to 16; Theresa May voted against this decision.

However, this should not undermine the progress that has been made within the movement of LGBT rights.

We should celebrate how far we have come while acknowledging how far we have to go.

The year 2014 marked the legalisation of same-sex marriages, a significant moment on the LGBT timeline.

However, legalising gay marriage doesn’t wipe the historical slate of suppression - homophobia is still prevalent in today’s society.

One in five LGB people have experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years, yet just one in four reported them to the police (Stonewall, 2008).

It was only last year that we saw the worst mass shooting in American history when 49 people were shot dead in a gay night club. Many media organisations said it was an ‘act of terrorism’ and not a ‘hate crime’.

An apology implies wrongdoing, it suggests that gay men are grateful to the government that once criminalised them. It fails to hold anybody to account for the injustice that has occurred.

It is also important that we remember those who were victimised by their own country and are no longer here to tell their story.

Alan Turing was a mathematician during WW2, Churchill described him as ‘the biggest contributor to the victory against the Nazis’.

He was sentenced for ‘gross indecency’, chemically castrated and committed suicide at the age of 41 because of his sexuality.

Pardoning homosexuality in itself is simply not enough, a pardon will never undo the damage that has been caused.