No (Apologies For) Homo(sexuals)

UK government hypocrisy on LGBT rights

Recently, the government has issued pardons for gay men persecuted on the grounds of their homosexuality in Britain. Whilst it is clearly too little too late, the pardons nonetheless represent a milestone, as the government admits its past wrongdoings. Nonetheless, they have been met with extensive criticism regarding both the implications of the word ‘pardon’ and the hypocrisy they seem to resemble in the government’s current stance on homosexual refugees.

The treatment of homosexuals in the 20th century was abominable. Famous cases like Alan Turing show just how atrocious the realities were. Legal enforcement of homophobia was followed through ruthlessly: in 1955 2,500 men were prosecuted for homosexuality, 40% of whom were jailed. The word pardon implies granting forgiveness for doing something wrong. I think it has become overtly clear that it is the state, rather than the men, who should be asking for forgiveness. As George Montague, convicted in 1976 for gross indecency, states, he wants an apology, not a pardon.

The pardons symbolically resemble a break from the UK’s homophobic history. Whilst the wording is more than questionable, the sentiment is decent. Unfortunately, it is also highly hypocritical. Decriminalization in 1976 didn’t stop arrests: 30,000 gay and bisexual men were convicted for behaviour that would not have been a crime had their partner been a woman between 1967 and 2003.

The government is trying to distance itself from its past failures and imply that our current situation is one of inclusion and equality. This, however, obscures the reality of our government’s treatment of homosexual refugees. The case of homosexuals being forcibly removed from the UK and sent back to Nigeria, a country in which same-sex intercourse is punishable with 14years of prison, is but an emblematic example of the lack of protection the UK currently provides.

These pardons resemble efforts to right a wrong of the past that can never be undone. At the same time, they attempt to absolve the government from taking responsibility for the present. Rather than symbolically looking to the past, it should consider what can be done to right the wrongs happening now.

[Kirsty Campbell]

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