Thursday, 27 July 2017

It's 50 years since homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales

Today marks 50 years since homosexual acts were partly decriminalised in England and Wales.

The Sexual Offences Act 1967, was an Act of Parliament which decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to be at least 21 years of age, and as long as there was nobody else in the house where it was taking place.

It became law on July 27th 1967, and marked a turning point for gay rights in the United Kingdom.

Despite this the age of consent was of course not equalised, acts between more than two gay men were still considered to be acts of 'gross indecency', and the act did not apply to those in the armed forces, or the merchant navy.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003, repealed most of the remaining 1967 Act, age of consent is now equal and there are no laws pertaining to consensual gay sex anymore.

To mark the occasion, writing for Pink News, the current Prime Minister Theresa May said the Conservative Party had been wrong in the past on LGBT+ rights.

The party has changed in recent years, despite going into an agreement with the homophobic DUP, the Conservatives were part of the Coalition Government, along with the Liberal Democrats who legalised same sex marriage.

May said: "While 1967 was a landmark, it took many more decades for it to become widely accepted that a person's sexuality and gender identity are things to respect and celebrate".

"Today we remember and celebrate those who knew what was right and fought for it tirelessly, who were way ahead of the politics of their time, and who shifted public attitudes on LGBT+ equality".

All five living Prime Ministers David Cameron, Theresa May, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major have written a piece for the LGBT+ news source to mark the occasion, and reflect on how LGBT+ people were treated during their time in office.

Last night the BBC aired a special programme as part of their 'Gay Britannia' season. Entitled 'Against the Law', the programme was a docu-drama about the struggles of "living" as a gay man, before 1967, when all gay sex was illegal, regardless of where it took place, and regardless of if it was consensual.

It was heart-breaking as the programme switched from dramatization to interviews with the men who were subjected to the most shocking treatment.

They were incarcerated just for who they love, and then given so called "treatment", to try and cure them of what was seen as a mental illness at the time. The longest sentence I heard mentioned during the programme was 18 months, which is absolutely shocking.

It featured stories of treatment which I had never heard before, like men being given injections to make them ill, and having to lie in their own vomit and faeces, as staff refused to let them clean themselves. The brutal reality of how our "justice" system tortured and castigated these men should never be forgotten.

In Scotland it wasn't until the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 that homosexual acts were decriminalised there, and in Northern Ireland it wasn't decriminalised until the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.

Of course all men who were targeted and discriminated against under these homophobic laws, have now been pardoned, and apologised to for what they went through.

It's important that the suffering of the LGBT+ people who came before us is talked about to younger generations, who need to know why Pride events are so important, why we must stick together as a community, and why we cannot simply stop fighting for our rights.

We must also remember that though here in the U.K. we are on the whole accepted and safe, around the World in other countries, you can still be imprisoned and even killed and tortured for being LGBT+.

In an article published by The Guardian, the newspaper found that there are still 72 countries and territories around the world where homosexuality is illegal.

It also found that in 45 of those countries, relationships between women are illegal, and in eight countries you can still be tortured and killed for being gay.

Even in "progressive" countries such as the United States, the current administration have now started to target transgender people, saying they can no longer serve in the military. This has been met with hatred from Donald Trump supporters who say trans people are mentally ill - now doesn't that sound familiar?

Furthermore the Justice Department, lead by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has started to attempt to roll back laws which protect LGBT+ people from workplace discrimination.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, LGBT+ equality still isn't in line with the rest of the U.K when it comes to same sex marriage, mainly thanks to the DUP, who have stalled and stopped equal marriage legislation from being passed.

Same sex marriage has been legal in the rest of the U.K. since 2013.

To conclude, yes now is a time to celebrate how far we've come, but to also recognise that the fight doesn't stop until we are ALL EQUAL.

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