Law Reform

Letter to David Blunkett – Call to encourage LGBT teachers to come out

The Rt. Hon. David Blunkett, MP,
Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

25th May, 1999.

Dear Mr. Blunkett,

Promoting Lesbian and Gay Equality of Opportunity in Schools
Following the sickening London bombings in April which targeted minority groups, OutRage! has been encouraged by some of the reported pronouncements by Tony Blair and Jack Straw on the need to promote equality, inclusivity and integration of ethnic groups, lesbians, and gay men, proactively; by your own statement ten days ago on proposals to “help young people develop a full understanding of their duties and responsibilities as citizens in a civilised and mature democracy”; and by the more recent explicit call by Sports Minister Tony Banks for gay football players to “come out”, to help combat homophobia in sport.

Although the Government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to repealing Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act, it is recognised throughout the teaching profession and elsewhere that the continued existence of this deplorable legislation on the Statute Books promotes and maintains an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship, so that lesbian and gay pupils are all too effectively denied any form of support; whilst their heterosexual peers receive no encouragement to accept individuals whose sexuality is different from their own. — The need for this was underlined during the House of Lords debate last month on the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, where it was revealed that the NSPCC, Save the Children, Barnado’s, NCH Action for Children, the BMA, Royal College of Nursing, Family Welfare Association, and the National Union of Teachers all supported equality and integration.

You will be aware of the tragic suicide last autumn of Darren Steele, who, after enduring years of homophobic bullying, committed suicide at the age of 15. You may also be aware of the 1998 GALOP survey of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, “Telling it like it is”, which found:

  • 54% had suffered repeated verbal abuse
  • 35% physical abuse in school
  • 33% verbal abuse at school
  • 9% repeated hate communications
  • 8% repeated intimidation
  • 7% sexual abuse at school
  • 4% hate communications & property damage/theft

A 1992 survey by the Lesbian Youth Support Group and Information Service concluded that, of the young lesbians questioned, a staggering 70% of those who had experienced homophobic abuse had attempted suicide. — Given that many young lesbian, gay and bisexual people feel unable to be open about their sexuality, these statistics must represent just the tip of the iceberg.

On behalf of OutRage!, I am writing to urge you publicly:

  1. to reaffirm that Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act neither applies to schools, nor restricts the supportive teaching and counselling that schools should offer on lesbian and gay issues;
  2. to call on schools to take firm action to halt all forms of homophobic bullying, whether directed at pupils or at staff, and regardless of the suspected sexuality of the victims;
  3. to confirm that being lesbian or gay is no bar to being a teacher;
  4. to encourage lesbians and gay men throughout the teaching profession to “come out”, and to advise schools and local education authorities that no teacher who does come out should be dismissed or in any other way disadvantaged for being honest and open about their sexuality.

Your leadership on these matters would do much to help support gay pupils and teachers, and would be greatly appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

John Hunt.

Letter to Jack Straw — Call for Government Action after Soho bombing

The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw, MP,
Home Secretary.

3rd May, 1999.

Dear Mr. Straw,

Government Action following Friday’s Soho bombing
Given your hospital visits to those injured by the bomb, it is plain that your weekend, like that of so many of us, has been disrupted by the blast, (albeit not in the devasting way that the survivors, their families, and those of the deceased will be affected for years to come).

I note that you have been reported this weekend as saying “there has, happily, been a huge change in the attitudes of society as a whole towards gay people. There is, of course, much more progress needed”: and I would agree with this on both counts.

From the extracts which I have seen reported, it would appear that the remainder of your comments have been limited to bringing the perpetrator(s) to justice, and on the sterling work of the police.

On behalf of OutRage! I am writing to ask you to consider and reply to the following additional points.

  1. To introduce an amendment to the 1998 Crime & Disorder Act, to impose tougher sentences for violence and harassment against lesbians and gay men, (in accordance with the spirit of the amendment tabled on 8th May last year by Richard Allan, MP).
  2. To repeal Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act, which, despite various Government pronouncements, in practice still exercises a severely inhibitory effect upon schools and other organisations which work with young people.
  3. In accordance with Tony Blair’s 1997 election slogan “Education! Education! Education!”, to ensure that both primary and secondary schools do their utmost to:
    • promote integration (of all segments of society) and eliminate intolerance;
    • eradicate racism, homophobia, and other forms of bullying;
    • introduce balanced sex education, addressing at all levels of the curriculum and in all relevant subjects appropriate awareness of acceptable and unacceptable variations of behaviour within personal relationships, for the practical, long-term benefit of all pupils, whatever their sexuality.
  4. In the context of the reported statement that you “value the close working relationship which I have with Stonewall and the gay community”: with which L/G/B/T (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender) organisations do you have any relationship, apart from Stonewall? Although I have personally supported Stonewall financially for a number of years -and still do- it is only fair to state that they neither consult nor are accountable either to their own supporters, nor to the rest of the L/G/B/T community. As such their point of view is by no means representative. Moreover, despite their wealth (relative to other community bodies), their still limited resources do not enable them to address all the issues which they might like to: to say nothing of other issues which they prefer to ignore. — Any consultation of significance must be within a larger, democratic, representative and accountable forum: for example, through the Equality Alliance, (which has performed a useful coordinating and information-sharing rôle this weekend). You will be aware that OutRage! is most desirous to have serious input into the legislative process: as, indeed, are other groups.
  5. On the subject of the police, it is indeed right and proper that the good work which they do should be acknowledged and appropriately rewarded. However, as the MacPherson Report has demonstrated (in the different but very closely related area of racism), there are regrettably still shortcomings. In the context of homophobia, I mention the following selection. –
    • The May issue of “Gay Times” carries a report, pp. 14 + 48, on homophobia within the police force: at a number of stations, but, in particular, at Soho’s West End Central. Indeed, after Saturday’s protest rally, a fellow marcher stated that a friend of his, a lesbian police officer there, was very distressed about the working environment. — There is little point in encouraging the police to hunt for bomb-planting terrorists whilst they allow hotbeds of homophobia and racism to flourish within their midst.
    • At last year’s Gay Pride March, a member of the Equality Alliance, Ian Farmer, was maliciously arrested. He subsequently complained: only to discover earlier this year that his complaint had been misrecorded. The mishandling of this case reflects a number of the issues which were recognised in the Stephen Lawrence scandal.
    • Although the police visited and warned selected gay businesses of the possible danger of a bomb, (not, I am informed, with due diligence), the warning was by no means high-profile. Since they had suspicions, tragically confirmed, that bombs might be directed at other, nonethnic, minority groups, it would surely have been appropriate to announce this to the general public through the national media. That this was neglected reminds me of the “Don’t die of ignorance” advertisements warning the nation of the danger of icebergs. This was another warning that dare not speak its name in public. — Why are the British as a nation so shamefully coy? It is truly disastrous: as has tragically been proved on both occasions.

We also hereby invite you to attend a brief commemorative Vigil of Remembrance at 6:30 p.m., Friday, 7th May, Old Compton Street, outside the Admiral Duncan.

Yours sincerely,

John Hunt.

Call for Tough New Laws against Antigay Hate Crimes

OutRage! is calling on the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to respond to the Soho bombing by bringing in new laws to crack down on homophobic hate crimes.

“We want the Crime & Disorder Act 1998 amended to impose tougher sentences for violence against lesbians and gay men. Such legislation would be a permanent, positive memorial to those who were injured and killed in the Soho bomb blast”, said Peter Tatchell.

“A third of lesbians and gay men have been beaten up by queer-bashers because of their homosexuality.

“Last year, Labour vetoed an amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill that would have extended the Bill’s tough new penalties for race hate crimes to similar prejudice-motivated attacks on lesbians and gays”.

The amendment last May was sponsored by MPs Richard Allan and Dr. Evan Harris.

“The Government’s refusal to support this amendment signalled that it was soft on antigay crime. We hope Jack Straw will, in the aftermath of the Soho atrocity, initiate new legislation against ALL forms of homophobic violence”, said Tatchell.

JACK STRAW CONDEMNED OVER “DIVIDE AND RULE” TACTICS

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has been condemned by OutRage! for having a “secret and exclusive” meeting on the Soho bombing with Stonewall. All other lesbian and gay community organisations were excluded from yesterday’s meeting (Saturday, 1st May).

“The Home Secretary is trying to divide and split the gay community at a time when we should be uniting to fight the threat posed by neo-Nazi terrorism”, said John Hunt of OutRage!. “His policy of secret consultations with one favoured group means that a representative cross-section of lesbian and gay opinion is not being heard. Stonewall has no mandate to speak on behalf of the whole gay community.”

POLICE CRITICISED FOR FAILURE TO WARN THE GAY PUBLIC

Sir Paul Condon has been accused of “complacency” over his failure to issue a public warning to the gay community that it could be hit by the bombers.

“The police warned some gay organisations and businesses, but they failed to warn the wider gay public. Before the Soho bombing, most gay people had no idea that gay bars were potential targets. If Sir Paul Condon had gone on national television to alert the gay community and announce that places like Old Compton Street were under police surveillance, the bombers may have feared detection and abandoned their plans”, said Hunt. “The limited police warning whispered to a few bar owners is reminiscent of icebergs, and the ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ advertisements. Another warning which dare not speak its name in public.”

Lords oppose equality again

Lords oppose equality again , 13-April-1999
©1999 John Hunt/OutRage! London
This picture may be copied in the cause of furthering our aims, provided that the source is acknowledged.

Lords oppose equality again

The evil Baroness Young of Farnworth was successful in getting the House of Lords to kill the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, which would have equalised the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual activity.

At the end of a debate which started at tea-time on Tuesday, 13th April, peers divided at 11:55, voting on Lady Young’s amendment to postpone the Second Reading by six months. The result, announced at ten minutes after midnight, was 222 “Content”, and 146 “Not content”.

MP’s had voted for equality in January by 313 to 130: but the defeat in the House of Lords was expected, given their vote of 289 to 122 against equality on 22-July-1998. — Statisticians may find some small comfort in the fact that the current defeat of equal treatment is by a reduced majority: by 76 this year, (a ratio of 3:2 or 60%), but by 167 last year, (a ratio of 5:2 or 70%).

Baron Alli of Norbury, 34, who took his seat on 21-July-1998, (the day before last year’s vote), told how he was still young enough to remember being gay at the age of 16, in a speech that was described later in the debate by a peeress as an “extremely moving personal testament”. He related how he had to cope with terms of abuse: some of which had been used earlier in the debate by other “noble Lords”. During Lord Alli’s speech, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was two rows in front with six other robed bishops, turned through 180° to watch him, and then turned back with a pronounced expression of distaste.

Lord Alli quoted from Pastor Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Several speakers referred to a risible proposal to allow anal sex (for both sexes) only from 18, whilst permitting other forms of gay sex at 16. Others complained that Stonewall’s advertisement in “The Times”, which listed organisations in favour of equality, (the NSPCC, Save the Children, Barnado’s, NCH Action for Children, the BMA, Royal College of Nursing, Family Welfare Association, Naitonal Union of Teachers, and the House of Commons), had been placed without seeking permission from the bodies to publish their names; and queried whether the decision had been made by select committees, or by a vote of the entire membership.

An amusing contribution from Lord Rowallan, during which he admitted to having been a hippy in the 1960’s, earned him the epithet of “Lord Rowallan of San Francisco”. Apparently looking at Dr. Carey, he explained how, when young, “some of us played ‘Doctors and Nurses’, some of us played ‘Vicars and Tarts'”.

An estimated 200 protesters, some from as far as Leeds and Sheffield, braved the unseasonable hail, sleet, and biting wind to protest for a couple of hours outside Parliament. Some returned after the result was announced.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, together with the bishops of Manchester, Norwich, Southwell, and Winchester voted to continue discrimination. The bishops of Bath & Wells, Birmingham and Oxford voted for equality.

Note that the Labour Baroness Young of Old Scone supports equality, and has stated that the current legal position puts the U.K. in violation of the Human Rights Convention.
(more…)

Submission to the Home Office Sex Offences Review Team

Su McLean-Tooke,
Sex Offence Review Team,
Room 253,
Home Office,
50, Queen Anne’s Gate,
LONDON. SW1H 9AT

19th March 1999

Dear Ms. McLean-Tooke,

Herewith our contribution to the Home Office Review of Sex Offences. Please do not hesitate to contact us via any of the addresses above if we can be of further assistance.

We understand the review will take some time, after which there will be a further consultation period. We anticipate taking a further part during this when we will be very happy to explain the proposals, whatever their form, to audiences throughout the land.

Although prostitution is excluded by the terms of reference from the current review, nothing in our submission should be interpreted as condoning the continued criminalisation of prostitution per se.

Yours truly,

John Beeson (for OutRage!)

SUBMISSION TO THE SEX OFFENCES REVIEW TEAM

INTRODUCTION

Our Statement of Aims is as follows:

OutRage! is a broad-based group of queers, committed to radical, non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to:

ASSERT the dignity and human rights of queers;
FIGHT homophobia, discrimination and violence directed against us;
AFFIRM our rights to sexual freedom, choice and self determination.
Any organisation with these aims must welcome a chance to review the law on homosexual crime and ‘make recommendations that will provide coherent and clear sex offences which will protect individuals, especially children and the more vulnerable, from abuse and exploitation’.

We believe the present laws against gay men, and to a lesser extent lesbians, are unjust, blatantly homophobic and, compared to similar laws controlling heterosexual behaviour, totally unequal. This inequality extends to the protection of minors, enforcement, penalties, charges and sentences.

We do not believe that consensual actions between adults, no matter how bizarre they might appear to the majority, are any concern of the law, or its agents. Thus we seek to legitimise consenting actions in bath-houses and saunas, ‘backrooms’ in pubs, and all group sex in private, including sadomasochistic games. We would also like to extend the concept of private to include public lavatory cubicles and after-dark ‘cruising’ areas.

Where activities such as ‘cruising’ and ‘cottaging’ are the subject of complaint from a member of the general public, the complainant should be required to appear at any subsequent trial and the offence, if any, should be regarded as a misdemeanour.

This group believes that, since recreational sex is a natural activity and popular pursuit, all laws which seek to control it should be abolished. However, abuse of trust and sex by adults with minors should remain punishable as at present: though there may be a case for the review group to give sensitive consideration to examples of experimentation between those just above and just below a fixed age of consent.

The whole basis of the current homosexual control laws is moralistic and based on a largely medieval concept of Christianity which we believe has no place in a pluralistic democratic society. Terms such as immoral, indecent, unnatural, sodomy and buggery have no place in a modern legal code.

Sex Offenders’ Register

While we are anxious to ensure that the vulnerable are protected from assault and abuse, we are greatly concerned about the implementation of the Register, the ease with which names may unnecessarily be added, and the difficulty in removing names no longer appropriate, (e.g. where the offence for which a person was added is subsequently decriminalised).

We also believe that the best way to promote protection of the vulnerable is through education, in schools and in the workplace, to inculcate the notion of respect for self and for others. Criminalising behaviour is at best a second string to the bow.

HOW OUTRAGE! BELIEVES THE LAWS SHOULD BE CHANGED

The Sexual Offences Act, 1956

This act could be reformed by simply making all sections gender neutral, that is persons instead of man, woman, boy or girl, adding ‘whether anal or vaginal’ to references to sexual intercourse and then repealing sections which no longer apply.

Thus Sections 1 to 10 could be reformed, Sections 11 and 12 and 13 repealed, and the reference to bestiality with an animal in Section 12 transferred to animal cruelty legislation. Section 14 should be reformed and Sections 15 and 16 repealed. Section 17 should be reformed and Section 19 repealed.

Sections 20 to 30 could be reformed and Sections 31 and 32 repealed. Sections 33 to 38 reformed and Section 41 repealed. This only leaves Sections 42 to 48 to be reformed.

Public Order Act 1986

We would endorse Martin Bowley’s group’s proposal that this Act should have Sections 4a and 5 modified to allow it to be used to regulate sex acts in public. They suggest that Section 5 should be modified as follows:

A person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening words or behaviour, or disorderly or indecent behaviour within hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

A similar modification should be made to Section 4a to cover intentional harassment.

Vagrancy Act 1824
Section 4. Repeal.

Street Offences Act 1959
Section 1 and 2. Modify to gender neutral.

Sexual Offences Act 1967.
Repeal the whole Act.

Criminal Law Act 1977
Section 54 part 1 and 2. Modify to gender neutral.

Sexual Offences Act 1985
Section 1 and 2. Modify to gender neutral.
Section 4 part 1. Modify to gender neutral. Repeal parts 2 and 3.

Common Law

  1. No proceedings shall take place against any person for any actual or pretended common law offence of sodomy or buggery with mankind, of any attempt solicitation or assault with intent to do the same, or of committing diverse, unlawful, unnatural, and sodomitical practices.
  2. The offences at common law of conspiracy to corrupt public morals or outrage public decency should be abolished except in so far as they relate to any substantive criminal offence.
  3. The offences at common law of outraging public decency and the keeping of a disorderly house should be abolished.

Vigil for Equality outside the Lords

OutRage! plans “Vigil for Equality” outside the Lords

A huge candlelight “VIGIL FOR EQUALITY” is being organised by OutRage! outside Parliament from 6-10 p.m. on Tuesday, 13th April, when the House of Lords votes on the age of consent.

With placards emblazoned with the words “Equalise Consent! Abolish the Lords!” and “Let Young Gays Love Their Peers”, OutRage! is holding a peaceful, dignified protest to support equality. Stonewall have been invited to participate in the Vigil. Other gay groups and individuals are also urged to take part, and to bring candles.

“A big turnout is important to show the Lords and the Government that the gay community will not settle for anything less than equal treatment”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

It is expected that peers, led by Baroness Young of Farnworth, will again veto 16, overturning MPs’ recent 183 majority in favour of ending discrimination.

“The unelected House of Lords has no democratic mandate to reverse January’s 313 to 130 vote by elected MP’s in favour of equality”, said Tatchell. (Last July, the Lords voted 289 to 122 against equality.)

“The way the Lords have ridden roughshod over the will of elected MP’s highlights the democratic deficit in our parliamentary system. It demonstrates the urgency of replacing the Lords with an elected and accountable second chamber”, added Tatchell.

While supporting an equal age of consent, OutRage! opposes the clauses of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill which penalise abuse of trust. They fail to give young people adequate protection against sexual abuse and unjustifiably criminalise consenting relationships.

OutRage! is calling on the Government and the House of Lords to scrap the criminalisation of consensual relations between adults and young people under 18 in their care. “Teachers and care workers should not be punished with up to two years’ jail for a genuine, loving relationship”, said Tatchell.

OutRage! also wants the Bill amended to require all schools to provide earlier, better quality sex education which, it argues, is the key to combating abuse. “Current sex education does not teach pupils how to deal with sex pests and sexual harassment. Young people need to be empowered with the skill and confidence to resist unwanted sexual advances and to report abuse if it occurs”, said Tatchell.

Update

The “Vigil for Equality” announced in February, is now being promoted additionally by the NUJ and NUS.

Baroness Young has tabled an amendment to the formal “That the Bill now be read a second time” motion for the Bill, replacing “now” with “this day six months”. — The “six months’ amendment” tactic is fairly well known in both Houses, and is a polite way of killing a bill by making it run out of time. If this is accepted there will not be enough time to pass the Bill before the end of the session, and the Bill will therefore fall.

Anyone wanting a copy of a poster or A5 flyer advertising the Vigil to copy and distribute should send email to jgh@intonet.co.uk. The files will be sent in RTF (Rich Text Format): guaranteed to be virus-free, since this format does not permit the use of macros.

Contrast with Other Countries

U.S.A. – “Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation, is wrong, and it ought to be illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land.”  (From President Bill Clinton’s State of the Union address, 19-January-1999)

South Africa – Lesbians and gay men and their immigrant partners should be free to live together as family, the Cape High Court ruled, (12-February-1999). Judge Dennis Davis on behalf of a full bench stated that “The Constitution seeks to promote a society in which diversity of identity is respected and protected. The [Aliens Control Act] prefers certain forms of life partnership over others … this cannot be justified.”  The Government has now been given 12 months to recognise our relationships by amending the Aliens Control Act.

Abuse of Trust Proposals don’t go far enough

OutRage! calls for better quality sex education to tackle abuse

The Government’s abuse of trust clause in the new age of consent Bill is “inadequate, misguided and oppressive”, says OutRage!.

“It fails to give young people sufficient protection against sexual abuse and unjustifiably criminalises consenting and loving relationships”, according to OutRage! spokesperson, Peter Tatchell.

OutRage! is calling on the Government and the House of Lords to amend the Bill to require all schools to provide earlier, better quality sex education which, it argues, is the key to combating sex abuse.

“The age of consent Bill does not go far enough to protect teenagers against sexual exploitation”, said Tatchell.

“We want the Bill amended to require sehools to provide improved sex education. Young people need to be empowered with the skills and confidence to resist unwanted sexual advances and to report abuse if it occurs.

“Current sex education fails to address abuse issues in an upfront, honest way. Pupils are not taught what to do if they are pestered for sex by a parent, teacher or care worker. They don’t get information about how to deal with sexual harassment.

“All the evidence shows that young people who are equipped with the ability and assuredness to say ‘no’ to unwanted sex are much more likely to rebuff and report would-be abusers.

“If the Government and the House of Lords are serious about safeguarding teenagers against sexual manipulation, they should amend the age of consent Bill to ensure that school sex education lessons promote young people’s sexual rights, which include the right to reject sex they don’t want.”

OutRage! is highly critical of the Government’s new abuse of trust law.

“The abuse of trust legislation concentrates on penalising abuse after it has happened. Our emphasis on improved sex education would help stop abuse happening in the first place”, said Tatchell.

“OutRage! opposes the way the abuse of trust clause criminalises consenting sex. Sexual relations between a young person and an adult in a position of authority over them are inappropriate, but they should be subject to discipline under professional codes of conduct, not criminalisation.

“We don’t believe that teachers and care workers should be punished by up to two years’ jail for a sincere, loving relationship”, said Tatchell.

OutRage! Backs Equality at 16 – Join the Age of Consent Lobby

Call for Better Sex Education to Empower & Protect Young People

OutRage! supports equality and is backing the campaign for an equal age of consent of 16 for everyone: gay, straight, and bisexual.

Since September 1998 we have been engaged in an on-going review of issues concerning consent and protection, covering both homosexual and heterosexual relationships.

Equality is our priority, together with better-quality sex education to inform and empower young people of all sexualities to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies, HIV infection, and sexual manipulation.

In the past OutRage! has championed an age of consent of 14. Our aim was to reduce the criminalisation of young people involved in consenting relationships, and to remove the legal obstacles to earlier, more-effective sex education in schools.

Last September we agreed that it was not helpful to campaign for a specific age of consent. Given that young people mature at different ages, any specific age of consent is somewhat arbitrary. OutRage! therefore decided to cease campaigning for consent at 14. We opted for a policy of not supporting any specific age of consent, putting the emphasis instead on improved sex education and the protection of young people against abusive relationships.

As part of our continuing review of the consent laws, we are still exploring what an ideal age of consent might be. This review includes looking at the experiences of other European countries, where ages of consent vary widely, and at the policies of child welfare groups.

We remain committed to opposing the prosecution of young people involved in victimless relationships and want to encourage a calm, considered public debate about how the sexual rights of young people can be balanced with laws to ensure their protection against abuse.

Sex education can play a major rôle in protecting young people. It should include nonjudgemental information about heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality, with practical advice on how to refuse unwanted sexual advances, negotiate safer sex, and sustain fulfilling relationships based on mutual consent and respect.

One way to protect young people against sexual abuse is by sex education lessons challenging the notion that sex is something sordid which should be kept hidden, and by empowering young people to stand up for their sexual rights, which include the right to say “no” to sex.

Sexually knowledgeable and confident young people are more likely to resist sexual exploitation than those who are sexually ignorant and ashamed.

Join the Age of Consent Lobby of MP’s and Lords

The second reading in the Commons of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill is expected to be on Monday, 25th January 1999, after which the Bill will go into the Committee stage, returning probably at the end of February for the report stage and third reading.

To ensure that we get another strong vote in the Commons before the Bill goes to the Lords, and to maximise the likelihood of getting the Bill through the Lords, we are asking you to write today to your MP, at the  House of Commons, London, SW1A OAA and also to one of the peers who voted against an equal age of consent last summer, at the House of Lords, London, SW1A OPW

Baroness Young of Farnworth, who organised the homophobic vote in the Lords last summer, claims she has had a very large postbag supporting her stand against equality. You can either write to her at the House of Lords,
or fax her on 020-72.19.31.56,
or sign Stonewall’s electronic petition. Letters should be addressed to “The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Young, DL”,
with salutation “Dear Lady Young”, and signed “Yours sincerely”.

Stonewall’s web site also includes an Age of Consent briefing, together with help on lobbying your MP, and a grab-yourself-a-Lord system, which will allocate you a personal peer, to ensure even lobbying.

If you are able to travel to Westminster, make a note of the following date. —

Thurs., 4th Feb., 3 p.m.
House of Lords, Committee Room 5
Parents Lobby of the Lords — Bring your parents to meet the Lords!

Call for a Pride Human Rights Festival

OutRage! is urging that next year’s Euro-Pride celebrations in London include a Pride Human Rights Festival.

For several years, London’s Pride events have incorporated the Pride Arts Festival. Why not have a Pride Human Rights Festival too?

Next year London hosts Euro-Pride. How about a Pride Human Rights Festival with a European theme? OutRage! has written to Amnesty International U.K., suggesting that they help coordinate such an event.

Issues that could be explored at the Pride Human Rights Festival include. —

1) European legal strategies
In the Lisa Grant case, the European Court of Justice upheld the right of employers to discriminate against gay staff. But four ex-military personnel are still fighting in the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ban on gays in the armed forces. Can they win where Lisa lost? Or are the European courts a waste of time?

2) European political strategies
The European Parliament and European Commission have limited power, but they have supported gay equality in the past. Could they be lobbied to secure E.U. action against antigay discrimination?

3) European joint campaigns
Instead of gay organisations campaigning separately in their own countries, should we be coordinating Europe-wide campaigns for the adoption of common European laws on the age of consent, partnership rights, balanced education (including sex education) in schools, military service, protection against discrimination, and parenting rights?

As well as involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisations, OutRage! envisages that the Pride Human Rights Festival would also include Amnesty International and other gay-friendly civil-rights organisations such as Liberty and Charter 88.