Last edited: February 14, 2005

British to Scrap Gay Sex Ban

Data Lounge, November 22, 2002

LONDON—British Home Secretary David Blunkett announced this week that the Labour government would pursue the most radical overhaul of sex crime legislation for more than 100 years. Though arrests in Britain for private sexual activity are rare, several high profile cases involving the prosecution of gay men have shown the need for serious reform, rights advocates say.

In January of 1998, seven men were convicted of offenses including sodomy and gross indecency after police seized sexually explicit video tapes on which they had recorded themselves. Known as the "Bolton Seven" the men were spared jail terms after loud national protests.

"Five of the seven men were convicted under the same gross indecency laws used to convict Oscar Wilde in 1895," said gay rights advocate Peter Tatchell of the 1998 trial. "Three were prosecuted under a buggery law that dates back to 1533."

In announcing the planned overhaul of the laws, Blunkett declared, "The law on sex offenses is widely recognized as archaic, incoherent and discriminatory... Much of it belongs in an age before the light bulb or motor car," he said,

The reforms liberalizing prohibitions on adult behavior will be introduced along with a tightening of laws protecting children. Child abuse laws will be updated, the sex offenders register tightened and a new offense of "grooming" children for sex abuse on the Internet will be formalized.

Said the Home Secretary, "We must have laws that are fit for the 21st century, that reflect today’s society and attitudes and provide effective protection against today’s crimes."

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