T he 60th anniversary of the Wolfenden reportwhich recommended an end to the ban on male homosexuality, will fall on 4 September. Although it was groundbreaking and led to subsequent gay law reform init was also flawed. John Wolfenden, who chaired the committee that produced the report, is often hailed as a great liberal reformer.
But he opposed homosexual equality and obstructed fellow committee members who proposed a more far-reaching decriminalisation. Such attitudes contributed to the subsequent half-baked, partial decriminalisation of sex between men 10 years later.
Gay rights veterans Antony Grey and Allan Horsfallwho campaigned in the s for the implementation Devlin on homosexuality the report, believed it was more restrictive than it could have been but that it gave the gay community a valuable springboard from which to campaign for law reform. Wolfenden argued, commendably, that what is deemed by many people to be immoral homosexuality should not necessarily be criminal; that the law should not dictate private morality.
He proposed that homosexual behaviour should not be prosecuted, "Devlin on homosexuality" it took place in private, with consent and involved no more than two men, both aged 21 or over.
There was never Devlin on homosexuality question of legalising same-sex acts. The report did not urge the repeal of anti-gay laws, merely a policy of non-prosecution in certain circumstances. This advocacy of limited decriminalisation was a de facto reiteration of support for anti-gay discrimination in law.
As well as proposing a gay age of consent five years higher than the Devlin on homosexuality limit of 16, Wolfenden recommended that in the case of a man aged 21 or over who was convicted of consenting oral sex or masturbation with a to 21 year-old male the maximum penalty should be increased from two to five years. These homophobic proposals were incorporated into the subsequent law reform, the Sexual Offences Act.
Home Office transcripts of the internal deliberations of the Wolfenden committee provide an insight into the thinking of Wolfenden and other members, revealing a battle between those like him who wanted little change in the law and others who were Devlin on homosexuality critical of the way the criminal justice system treated gay and bisexual men.
Wolfenden was often an obstacle to progressive recommendations. On three key issues, he played a negative role. When committee members discussed the age of consent, Wolfenden was aghast to discover that seven wanted 18, "Devlin on homosexuality" advocated 17 and only three supported his proposal of In a committee session inWolfenden indicated his belief that young men could be seduced and corrupted into homosexuality.
He was adamant that he would never put his name to a report recommending anything other than 21 as the age of consent. He overrode the majority who favoured a lower age limit.
Equally shocking, Wolfenden wanted to keep anal sex illegal in all circumstances, even between consenting adults in private. Wolfenden watered down criticism of the police by fellow committee members, exonerating officers over their use of agents provocateurs in parks and lavatories. If he had exposed and condemned such tactics instead, police entrapment may have declined rather than subsequently increasing and thousands of gay and bisexual men might have been spared arrest.
There were omissions too. He did not recommend the decriminalisation of the invitation and facilitation of homosexual acts, nor of the crime of men chatting each other up in public.
The author is director Devlin on homosexuality the Peter Tatchell Foundation www. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading?
Abstractly considered, Lord Devlin's belief that society has the right not only to . would include homosexuality between consenting adults where no harm is.
What was the issue addressed by the Wolfenden report? The recommendation that sex between two consenting males in private should be made legal. 2. prostitution and homosexuality, and a trio of obscenity decisions in the United DEVLIN, TnE ENFORCEMENT OF MoRALS (Oxford University Press ).