Teachers could be jailed for up to five years for consenting relationships with pupils, under the "abuse of trust" clause in the age of consent Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill.
The abuse of trust clause is being condemned as "draconian" by OutRage!, who are urging MPs to register their disapproval of the clause.
"Sex between teachers and pupils is wrong. But it should be punished as a disciplinary offence under the teacher's professional code of conduct, not by imprisonment", according to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
"Together with the main teaching unions, we oppose the criminalisation of consensual sex. There is no justification for punishing teachers with up to five years jail for a consenting relationship that may be based on sincere love and commitment.
"Not all such relationships are predatory or exploitative. In the case of a young teacher and an older pupil, there may be only a few years difference in their ages. The relationship could have developed entirely naturally and spontaneously, without any manipulation or abuse."
Home Office Minister Charles Clarke MP has said that, even after the equalisation of the age of consent, men convicted of consenting gay sex with 16 and 17 year olds will remain on the Sex Offenders' Register. His admission comes in a letter to Brian Iddon MP, dated 2nd February 2000.
"Under the Sex Offenders' Act 1997, a man aged 20 who has a consensual gay relationship with a 17 year old is branded a pædophile and required to sign the Sex Offenders' Register. No such penalty applies to equivalent heterosexual behaviour. Sex between men and women in the same circumstances is not even an offence.
"The age of consent Bill must be amended to remove from the Sex Offenders' Register men convicted of consenting homosexual relationships with 16 and 17 year olds.
"Once consent is equalised at 16, the offence for which they were convicted
and forced to sign the Sex Offenders' Register will cease to exist. It is
therefore inappropriate for them to remain on the Register", said Mr. Tatchell.
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