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.
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
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 020-126.96.36.199,
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!
Twenty European countries have equal ages of consent lower than 16. With certain qualifications, four states allow consent at 12 (Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain), and eight at 14. These ages apply both to straight and gay sex.
Of the 34 European countries surveyed, 26 have an equal age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual acts. Six have unequal ages, (including the UK). Only Romania still has a total ban on homosexuality: though it is now in the process of decriminalising same-sex relationships.
|Cyprus||16/18 (cy)||16 (cy)||18 (cy)|
|Denmark||=||15 (a)||15 (a)||15 (a)|
|Finland||=||16 (a)||16 (a)||16 (a)|
|France||=||15 (a)||15 (a)||15 (a)|
|Malta||=||12/18 (a;c)||12/18 (a;c)||12/18 (a;c)|
|Netherlands||=||12/16 (c)||12/16 (c)||12/16 (c)|
|Portugal||=||12/16 (c)||12/16 (c)||12/16 (c)|
|Romania||14||illegal (r)||illegal (r)|
|Spain||=||12/16 (c)||12/16 (c)||12/16 (c)|
|=||Denotes an equal age of consent under 16 for everyone.|
|=||Denotes an equal age of consent for everyone.|
|/||Where two ages are given, consent is permitted at the lower age in some or most circumstances.|
|a||A higher age of 18 applies where the older partner is in a position of authority, (e.g. a teacher), but is seldom enforced.|
|c||Sex with a person between the two ages cited is prosecuted only if the young person, or their parent or guardian, files a complaint.|
|cy||The age of consent is 16 for women and 18 for men, (legislated 2000).|
|e||Abuse of relationship of dependence of an employee is penalised, whatever the employee's age.|
|r||In 1996, the Romanian Parliament voted to decriminalise lesbian and gay sex,
provided that it does not cause a "public scandal".
The Romanian Government has said that any act to which two or more members of the public object
could constitute a "public scandal" and be grounds for prosecution.
The legal status of lesbian and gay sex in Romania therefore remains ambiguous and uncertain.
On 28-June-2000, the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, (the lower chamber of Parliament),
adopted a law to modify the Romanian Penal Code,
including the elimination of the notorious article 200 which criminalises same-sex relations.
These changes now have to be approved by the Romanian Senate.
This is not expected to happen until after the summer recess.
Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill in Standing Committee E
Hansard: The Commons Debate, 25-January-1999
Hansard: The Commons Vote, 25-January-1999
Government Research Paper: The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill - Age of Consent and Abuse of a Position of Trust, 21-January-1999
Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, Wednesday, December 16, 1998
Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill -- Explanatory Notes, Wednesday, December 16, 1998
Queen's Speech -- Age of Consent, Tuesday, November 24, 1998 -- BBC
Hansard: The Lords Debate, 22-July-1998
Hansard: The Lords Vote, 22-July-1998
Hansard: The Commons Debate, 22-June-1998
Hansard: The Commons Vote, 22-June-1998
Situation of lesbians and gays in Council of Europe member states -- 6-June-2000
BBC: Girls reach puberty at eight -- 19-June-2000
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