Communtity Law Manual | Gender & sexuality | Sexual orientation: Rights of non-heterosexual people

Sexual orientation: Rights of non-heterosexual people

Consensual sex and the criminal law

Crimes Act 1961, ss 127-144

Relationships and sexual activity between people of any sexual orientation or gender are legal in New Zealand, and the same age of consent (16) applies to everyone.

This covers people of all genders – for example non-binary people, gender-fluid people, intersex people, transgender people, fa'afafine, whakawahine, tangata ira tāne, and cisgender men and women.

It also covers all sexual orientations – for example bisexual, lesbian, queer, gay, pansexual, takatāpui and heterosexual.

Those are only a handful of the diverse genders and sexualities in Aotearoa.

Wiping old convictions from before homosexual law reform in 1986

Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Act 2018, ss 2, 15, 16, 23

Some sexual activity between men used to be against the law in New Zealand, along with related things like running a venue used for sex between men. This changed with the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986, and those things are no longer illegal.

If you were convicted for participating in that kind of sexual activity before the law changed in 1986, there's now a new law to get rid of those convictions. You can apply to have those convictions ‘expunged' (this means removed, or wiped). The result is that it's as if the convictions never happened. However, you can't get compensation (money) for being convicted under the old law.

If a person who was convicted of one of these offences is now dead, other people can apply for the conviction to be wiped – like their partner or a family member or the executor of their will. If you don't fit one of those categories, you can ask the Ministry of Justice to let you apply on the dead person's behalf.

How do I get an old conviction wiped?

You can apply to have historic convictions wiped through the Ministry of Justice, who have a form available online.

You can find it by searching for “Historical homosexual convictions” on their website: www.justice.govt.nz

What's the benefit of having the old conviction wiped?

Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Act 2018, s 9

Once an old homosexual conviction has been wiped (“expunged”) you don't have to tell anyone about the conviction – including if you were answering questions under oath in court.

This means that if a potential employer or anyone else asks you whether you have a criminal record, and this was your only conviction, you can truthfully say that you don't have a criminal record.

It also means that employers or others getting police checks on your record won't be given any information about the conviction.

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