The Sexual Offences Bill

Publication Date01 June 2003
Date01 June 2003
AuthorJames Morton
DOI10.1177/002201830306700301
SubjectOpinion
OPINION
The
Sexual
Offences
Bill
James Morton
It
is often said,
with
some justification,
that
the
core of laws
on
sex in
England
and
Wales
have
been
made by middle aged, middle (and upper)
class
men.
At
the
time of the accession of Queen Victoria whose reign
saw
both
the
abolition of the death penalty for buggery
and
the
creation
of an offence of homosexual conduct
between
consenting males,
there
were no
women
lawyers, certainly no
women
judges. Women did
not
have
the
vote. They certainly did
not
have seats in Parliament.
When
divorce became available
there
was
one
rule for
men
and
a
much
harsher
one
for
women.
Into
the
20th
century
they
were largely re-
garded as chattels. Laws relating to sex were
man-made.
Since
there
were no
women
police officers until
the
beginning of
the
First World
War
and
there
were no
women
judges until after
the
Second World War,
they
were male enforced. Now the Sexual Offences Bill introduced
earlier this year into
the
House of Lords has given
women
the
opportu-
nity to
make
asubstantial contribution to
the
effort to drag
the
sex laws
of England
and
Wales mewling
and
crying into
the
21st century.
It
is about time too, given
the
anomalies which have existed even
after
the
passing of
the
Sexual Offences Act 1967. Until
the
last decade
rape could only take place per vaginam
and
not
per anum which was
buggery, so a male-to-female transsexual
who
had
undergone recon-
structive surgery could not be raped.
If
a
man
over 21
had
intercourse
with amale friend also over 21 in private no offence was committed.
If
a
man
over 21
and
his female
partner
of the same age, in private,
had
intercourse per anum,
then
both
could, in theory, be sent to prison for
life. Certainly
it
was
the
practice of the courts to send
the
man
to prison.
Ahusband could go to prison for consensual anal intercourse; he could
not
even be charged
with
raping his wife from
whom
he might have
been
separated for 20 years. There again he could be charged with
assisting
another
to rape her. There was an irrebutable presumption
that, despite all physical evidence to
the
contrary, a boy
under
14 could
not
be guilty of rape.
If
two consenting 17-year-olds are found in bed together, no offence
is committed
if
they are female or
one
is male
and
the
other
female.
If
they are
both
male, depending
upon
what
exactly has happened, in
theory they can be sentenced to life imprisonment.
If
two or more
heterosexual or female people take part in consenting sex in private, no
offence is committed.
If
more
than
two
men
do so,
then
if this includes
anal intercourse,
they
could be sent to prison for life.
If
a
man
indecently
assaults a
woman
the
maximum
sentence is
one
of two years.
It
is no
offence for a
woman
to have sex
with
a
man
by fraud or by drugging
him.
183

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