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Wiremu Demchick

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[00:00:00] Last week, you may recall I spoke to Professor Andrew Hodges, about his book on British mathematician Alan Turing, who played a large part critical part in cracking the Germans Enigma code during the Second World War. The book was the basis for the Oscar nominated movie, The Imitation Game Imitation Game. You may recall that after the war, this was the story we heard last week, Alan Turing, who was gay, was convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to chemical castration. Children committed suicide a couple of years after that, that was in 1954. Now the film's prompted calls in Britain for the government there to pardon 10s of thousands of men who were prosecuted for having gay six here, six between men was illegal until 1986, punishable by up to seven years in prison. And now Wellington based man started a petition to have historic six convictions wiped from gay New Zealanders records. He's dem dem chick. He's with us in the Wellington studio with me. Good afternoon. Hi, good afternoon to you. Thank you for coming onto the program today. Well tell me first of all, how you getting on with your efforts to raise signatures for the petition? [00:01:12] Well, the petition is gaining momentum. That's been very, it's been very encouraging to see that I we still have a long way to go to my goal, but I'm very confident we can get there. And I've had some great conversations with people so far. How many signatures are you aiming for? I'm going for 3000. Now that's a sort of informal goal that I set myself but it's I think it's a it would be a good sign to the government that this is something New Zealanders care about [00:01:36] how long you haven't been going very long yet. Have you just started Himanshu? [00:01:39] Yeah, I started late November. So it was perhaps not the best time to start a petition in certain ways. I mean, starting with, you know, sort of during the holiday season, but it seemed like the right time to start anyways, because of what was happening. Well, this [00:01:52] movie may help give you some momentum. [00:01:56] I think so. Now of course, New Zealand has its own unique story around Around this whole issue, but I think people have the movie has captured people's imaginations and in a way that's been quite helpful. So roughly how many signatures do you [00:02:09] have? Now? Would you say? [00:02:10] It's a little hard for me to say for sure, because a lot of them are being held by other people. Currently, they haven't made it to me yet, but I think we've gotten probably around 300. Okay. [00:02:18] Now, in Britain, as I mentioned, I think where there are 10s of thousands, I think, even close to 50,000. People who, whose previous convictions are being sought to be wiped out any idea what the numbers might be here, [00:02:32] it would certainly be several hundred and possibly over 1000 is a little hard to completely know, because some of the, there's a bit of challenge around getting accurate counts of exactly which convictions we would want to, we would want to have pardon. So I mean, there was certain convictions that are sort of filed under the same things, for example, that we were not seeking to have pardoned. So it's a little hard to get exact numbers, but I think we would be looking at definitely several hundred [00:03:00] And what basically then what is the type of conviction that you would want it to be? Have it expunged? [00:03:07] Well, it is the consensual homosexual act. I mean, we there's there's been on the books and it still is on the books as it should be crimes with having homosexual acts or any sexual acts with minors. So that would still be on the book, and we would definitely not want to call for that to be pardoned. So it's about it's about consensual relationships. [00:03:29] And given that this is, as we're discussing, it's a historic issue here. To what extent do you think there will be gained New Zealanders these days for whom these convictions have proved a major burden in their lives? [00:03:48] Well, that's that's a complicated question. I think. Certainly, there's the there's the hundreds of people who were actually convicted and and because this is 30 years on from Those can from from that from the last of those convictions. We therefore have a situation where, you know, there's with every year there's less people essentially who, who are still living who have these convictions. But there's still certainly I mean, I think there's, I can say with pretty good certainty, we're definitely looking at several hundreds who still are living now. They I've heard mixed things about this. I know that I've heard from some people that people who got those sorts of convictions can get them wiped off using the clean slate act, that's not a part. And of course, that's just that they don't have to declare them for certain jobs. So it's hard to say like I don't I'm not sure that there's a huge practical problem in terms of ensuring in terms of, you know, day to day prejudice, but I think it would be very, it would be an overbearing remembrance for the for these men. And then of course, there's the broader LGBT community, who I think still suffers from a degree of stigma, and this I think, would help with that as well. [00:04:54] Just to be absolutely clear on this, are we only talking about men? [00:04:58] Yes, we are in the room. And that is because the the walls on the books were for men and men with men relationships. There were I am not an expert on the history, my understanding is that those who, for example, were lesbian, or perhaps in the trans community were, you know, subject to perhaps even criminal prosecution. But I think that issues a little bit more complicated because I'm not aware of any laws on the books that specifically forbid those sorts of relationships. [00:05:27] And as you've been doing your work on this petition, have you been hearing stories from some men who have had convictions? I wonder what sort of tale that go into the name identifying people, but generally, what sort of stories have you been hearing? [00:05:43] Well, I should say Firstly, I actually haven't had as much contacts. In fact, I've had zero contact with people who have actually had convictions. I am very much looking for people because I think they can tell the story better than I can. But I but I have spoken to many people who are In the LGBT community there was there was one person who always sticks in my mind with this issue who I talked to, and I think he's, he's probably around 65 or 70. Now, and he was never convicted, but he had to hide his identity because of the legislation. And that was I think it you could tell he had forgiven society, but it was, it was a real, it was a real trial for him. [00:06:21] So the fact you haven't spoken to these people, I'm wondering how I'm just thinking, you know, you might think odd. That's just, it doesn't mean so much to them, or does it also perhaps suggest that it's something people of that generation, they would not openly want to talk about this matter of their personal history? [00:06:41] Yeah, I mean, I suspect that a large portion of it, of course, since I haven't met them, I can't say for certainty why. But I that seems to me, there's both. It's not since there are probably we're looking at the order of a few hundred people who are convicted. And then there's the fact that you know, people have died through the years and then there's also the fact that the stigma, I think that are all important factors and in, you know, and I'm hoping that this petition will allow them to consider coming out and talking about their life. [00:07:10] What sort of communication, if any, have you had from the government about their attitude to this? [00:07:17] So I've been in contact with a number of MPs and and that is cross party at the moment. I've been in probably closest communication with Kevin Hague, Kevin Hague, is is the Green Party MP who is is I understand has been working closely with the government on this matter. And it seems like the government's the national government is quite interested in this current process, but I haven't spoken to them yet. [00:07:45] Well, I mean, we are now in New Zealand in recent times. We used to have political leaders every year that for a few years now they've gone along to events like the Big Gay out in in Auckland, there's a more relaxed Association. With all members of the of the community, what should that mean that you should be successful? [00:08:07] Oh, I think so. I mean, I think the the LGBT community will obviously be behind this petition and I, and there is a quite close relationship with I think many members of parliament. So yes, I think that will help. [00:08:19] Why are you so interested in getting involved in this campaign? [00:08:23] Well, many things. When I first found out that there was still convictions on the books for these men, that was quite shocking to me, and I wanted to do something about it. But I also I have many friends who are members of the LGBT community and I've had, you know, that's, that that is a big push for me because I feel like I'm doing this for them as well. [00:08:46] Okay, look, thank you very much, William. It'd be just oh, there's a very important question. If someone wants to get in touch with you, maybe wants to sign the petition or at least find out more about it. How do they do that? [00:08:58] Probably the best way to do it is to Visit the website. So those were movie dot insert. And and people can go there and it's a paper based petition. So this is is a little bit more challenging to get signatures but people can go on there and they can download the PDF and get people to sign and send it to me and my contact details are there as well. But [00:09:16] dungeon That's correct. [00:09:22] How long do you think you'll keep it running for? [00:09:24] We are we're looking to present the petition to Parliament's in early March, actually. And that's because and on March 8 1985, the bill to repeal crimes of homosexual ality was introduced to Parliament. So it's a great, it's a great 30 years on opportunity. [00:09:44] We want to thank you for coming into the studio today. I've been talking to William Adem check about his efforts to get a petition going get more more people signing up. He's aiming for 3000 signatures for a petition, which would push for historic six convictions between gaming to be to be put side and they would for them to be pardoned with them. Oh, thank you

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes.