Last edited: December 07, 2004

Sweeping Sex Law Changes for England, January 30, 2003

By Peter Moore

London—England is about to erase dozens of anti-gay laws in the biggest overhaul of sex crime legislation in more than a generation.

Despite the decriminalization of homosexuality, laws against buggery, gross indecency and soliciting by men remained on the books, making it technically illegal to not only have sex but to cruise for sex.

The omnibus legislation was announced Wednesday by the home secretary, David Blunkett.

Blunkett said it is "the first time for 50 years a government has had the courage to take on the difficult and sensitive task of reforming sex offences legislation".

"The current law on sex offences is inadequate, antiquated and discriminatory," he said.

The new law retains sections on public sex, however, making sexual acts that can be viewed by others a criminal offence punishable by a maximum six-month penalty. The public sex provision will include sex clubs. "If the cubicle door was open then clearly an offence was committed. If it’s closed, it’s different," Blunkett said.

Voyeurism will become a specific offence for the first time with a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.

The laws will also offer greater protection for children against sex predators and for victims of rape.

But, the provisions will only take effect in England and Wales. The Victorian era laws will remain in effect in Scotland.

The Scottish government has remained silent on any changes in the country’s sex laws and is expected to maintain that silence until after elections in May.

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