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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Alan Turing pardoned...but is it enough?

Good to see that Alan Turing has been pardoned by the Queen.

Better late than never, of course. But it also serves as a recognition of Alan's work, as well as a reminder that the homophobia that destroyed his life was inherently evil.

That is not a word I use lightly. But it must be said that homophobia on the level directed towards Turing, and currently being witnessed in Uganda, can be described in no other way. There are no words sufficiently adequate to define the appalling crime against humanity that rampant homophobia represents.

I have been sent this morning some graphic and utterly horrific images of  homophobic hate crimes recently committed in Uganda. Action must be taken by the international community.

From a British perspective, we must take a lead against the evil being perpetrated in a Commonwealth nation.

In the meantime, while it is right to celebrate Turing's overdue pardon, we must also ask that every other individual who suffered at the hands of British institutional homophobia is similarly pardoned. Many have spoken up for Turing...we must how speak up for all the others.

A pardon for a hero is of course welcome, and credit is due to the coalition government and the Lib Dems within it, but it isn't enough. The evils of homophobia are very much alive: in Uganda, in Nigeria, in Russia and (lest we forget) closer to home. Turing's pardon essentially constitutes an exceptional case based on "circumstances humbly represented unto us", and falls far short of the apology that many persecuted gay people and their families deserve. In fact, it's not an apology at all and does absolutely nothing to right the wrongs suffered by hundreds of thousands of people. Fellow Lib Dem Andy Myles wrote on facebook: "If the 'royal prerogative of mercy' is only being wheeled out because Turing was brilliant, something is deeply wrong. That way round it suggests that it's okay to be gay - just so long as you happen to be a genius at the same time." I agree, what needs to be made explicitly clear is that the sentence was wrong.Turing was a victim and not a criminal, as indeed were many others. The pardon represents one more step on the road to addressing the tragic human consequences of historic prejudices, but there are many more to be taken.

What was done to Turing, and countless others, constitutes a state-sponsored crime that has not - even in 2013 - been adequately accepted or apologised for.  It's justice we need, not merely one highly significant and symbolic pardon: justice for the thousands of people whose lives were wrecked by the actions of the British judicial system and the attitudes underpinning it.

1 comment:

tris said...

I agree completely. Excellent post.

If Her Majesty offers a pardon to a mathematical genius who made an enormous contribution to the war effort, then she must also offer the same pardon to everyone else who was criminalised by the hypocrisy of a law which was plain wrong. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. It cannot be determined by IQ, education, contribution or station of birth.

In the African states which have, let's say "intolerant" attitudes to homosexuality, we need to use as much of this famous "clout" that Mr Cameron talks so much of. He has made much of it; this is somewhere that he could demonstrate its power!

We must, of course remember that when, only a few years ago, the UK had draconian laws against homosexuality, they would not have welcomed the interference of more enlightened states in, for example, Scandinavia.

However, a clever government , were we ever to find one, would find ways of persuading leaders, such as those in Uganda, that they should look again.

One of the problems is that, were this put to an open referendum in some African countries, the democratic voice would be for the continuation of 'discrimination'. The pressure from people who consider themselves to be deeply religious would be intense (as it is even in Scotland, where otherwise sensible men and women voted against equalisation of rights).

I agree with you, though, that the Commonwealth should be consulted. Britain must have a deal of "clout" in that. Of course I'm not sure what they could do other than order sanctions or reduce aid. Something that usually only hurts the poor. It has too, to be remembered, that much of the Commonwealth may be disinclined to take any action.