|Statewatch article: RefNo# 14875
[Peter Tatchell reports on judicial homophobia]
Ninety-six years after the trial of Oscar Wilde, the
anti-gay laws which led to the imprisonment of one of the
greatest writers of the nineteenth century are still on the
statute books. Every year, thousands of men continue to be
prosecuted for victimless gay behaviour. Despite moves
towards closer integration with Europe, Britain still
sanctions institutionalised judicial discrimination against
its gay and bisexual citizens.
My own recent research, based on official Home Office
figures, has shown that in England & Wales during 1989
consenting homosexual relations between men over the age of
16 resulted in:
* 3,500 prosecutions.
* 2,700 convictions and 380 cautions.
* 90-100 imprisonments.
Among those victimised were 33 men gaoled for consensual gay
sex with other men aged 16-21. Dozens of teenagers were
also penalised: 185 were convicted, 147 cautioned and 23
In 1989 the criminalisation of men for consenting gay
behaviour cost the taxpayer:
* ¼12 million for 3,500 prosecutions.
* ¼1.2 million to imprison 90-100 men.
Anti-gay bias within the criminal justice system is
suggested by the following evidence from the government's
criminal statistics for 1989:
* 30 per cent of all sex convictions are for consensual gay
relations (though these comprise only 13 per cent of sex
* Men who commit consenting homosexual acts are three and a
half times more likely to be convicted than heterosexual and
violent sex offenders.
* The average police clear-up rate for the mainly
consensual gay offences of buggery, procuring and indecency
is 97 over cent, which is 28 per cent higher than the
average clear-up rate for rape and indecent assault on a
* Compared with men who have consenting sex with girls under
16, men who commit the consensual offence of "indecency
between males" with partners over 16 are three times more
likely to be prosecuted, as opposed to being cautioned.
* Convictions for victimless homosexual indecency rose by
106 per cent between 1985-89. According to the Home Office,
this can be partly explained by the decision of some Chief
Constables to "target" these offences. Comparable
heterosexual behaviour is rarely, if ever, targeted by the
* Men who have consenting sex with 13-16 year old boys
nearly always get charged with "indecent assault" (despite
the boys being willing participants); whereas an "indecent
assault" charge is almost never bought against men who have
consensual sex with girls in the same age range.
Prison sentences for consenting homosexual relations with
men aged 16-21 are often twice as long as the gaol terms for
"unlawful sexual intercourse" with a girl aged 13-16.
This homophobia of the British legal system is increasingly
out of step with the rest of Europe. Last year, for
example, newly democratic Czechoslovakia lowered the age of
consent for lesbians and gay men to 15; thereby ensuring
parity with the age of consent for heterosexuals. In
Britain, however, we continue to have more laws against gay
sex than any other country in Europe, East or West. We also
prosecute more men for consenting homosexual behaviour than
any other European nation.
1992 is only six months away. Now is the time to campaign
for `Equality With Europe'. As Britain joins the process of
closer European cooperation, let's make sure we get
European-style equal ages of consent (typically 15 or 16);
partnership rights (as in Denmark); anti-discrimination
legislation (similar to the French); and laws against
incitement to hatred (along the lines of Ireland). Nothing
could better commemorate the centenary of Oscar Wilde's
trial in 1995 than the repeal of Britain's anti-gay laws and
the achievement of full equality for the lesbian and gay
citizens of this country.
1989 is the l
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