British to Scrap Gay Sex Ban
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
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."