A gay couple in New Zealand have described being harassed and verbally abused for holding hands as they walked through central Auckland.
New Zealand is often hailed as one of the world’s most LGBT-friendly countries, but that’s not what Nicolás Di Julio and his boyfriend experienced on Good Friday (2 April).
The couple were walking hand-in-hand on Karangahape Road on their way to the supermarket when they were confronted by a voice shouting “homos” and “f****ts”.
The slurs came from a man waiting in his car at the traffic lights, they told the New Zealand outlet Stuff.
When the pair tried to ignore him he actually followed them, continuing to yell homophobic slurs from his car as he showed them his middle finger.
“We were pretty upset. He was harassing us,” Di Julio said.
In an attempt to try and stop him the couple began filming the man, but the situation escalated as he did a U-turn in their direction and drove through a nearby petrol station.
Feeling threatened, the gay couple retreated to a nearby Turkish cafe for safety, where they called the police at 11.30am.
Di Julio said since the incident he had stopped holding hands with his boyfriend in public. “We felt really threatened, and it’s not fair – we’re just holding hands,” he said.
According to Auckland Pride director Max Tweedie, cases of verbal and physical abuse against gay people are on the rise in New Zealand.
However, the full extent of such crimes isn’t known as hate speech is not a standalone offence in New Zealand.
“We can’t get a full picture of the scale of these physical and verbal abuses until we get some hate speech laws in place,” Tweedie said. “It’s perfectly legal to say homophobic and transphobic things.”
He added that it was “heartbreaking” to hear the incident had occurred on Karangahape Road – a “hub” for the local LGBT+ community.
“It’s one of our most visible streets in our biggest city and these things still happen,” he said.