Australia’s Victoria state to apologise for treatment of homosexuals

Melbourne, May 24 (IANS) The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, will formally apologise to the state’s gay population on Tuesday for past laws that criminalised homosexuality.

Andrews is expected to address the Victorian parliament in Melbourne on Tuesday, offering an official apology to the gay community, Xinhua reported.

Some citizens previously jailed for being gay will be in the chambers to witness the landmark event, which is believed to be a world first.

In a statement on Monday, the Premier described the old laws, which were repealed in 1981, as “unjust”.

Prior to homosexuality’s decriminalisation, the maximum sentence for the charge was 15 years in prison.

Since September last year, the Victorian government has been taking applications from gays and lesbians trying to have past court convictions, made on the basis of their sexuality, stricken from the public record.

Anna Brown from Human Rights Law Centre, the independent group representing a number of the convicted gay men, said the apology meant their clients could move on with their lives.

“These men can feel freed of the shackles of their past,” Brown told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Tuesday.

“But also they carry a deep stigma and shame having a criminal conviction.”

Brown said the conviction records — held by Victoria’s department of public prosecutions, the police and the courts — were still in paper form, making them very difficult to locate.

“Finding the records is proving to be one of the most challenging parts of the scheme,” she said.

It is not the first time an Australian government has felt compelled to apologise for its treatment of a marginalised group.

In 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd officially said sorry on behalf of the Federal government to indigenous Australians for the Stolen Generations — when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their families between the 1890s and 1970s.

–IANS

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