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Wolfenden Report on male homosexuality

1957

Wolfenden Report

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  • Intro

    Male homosexuality had been illegal in England since the Buggery Act of 1533 (Female homosexuality was never specified). The law became a lot stricter in 1885 with the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which made all homosexual acts illegal, even those carried out in private. Perhaps the most famous prosecution was that of the writer Oscar Wilde in 1895.

     

    After WWII, arrests and prosecutions for homosexuals increased. For example Alan Turing, the cryptographer who helped to break the German Enigma code, was victimised for his homosexuality. Charged with 'gross indecency', he was forced to choose between prison or hormone treatment. He also lost his job. His death in June 1954 was treated as suicide.

     

    This and other cases led the government to set up a Departmental Committee under Sir John Wolfenden, to consider both homosexual offences and prostitution. Wolfenden’s influential report put forward the argument that 'homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private be no longer a criminal offence'. Despite the recommendations of the report, it was not until July 1967 that homosexuality finally became legal in England and Wales

     

    The audio tab features curator Kristian Jensen discussing the report.

  • Audio

    Can't play the file above? Listen to the audio clip here

Find out more about the Wolfenden Report Here

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