While the UK reflects on 50 years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, it’s clear we’ve still got a long way to go.
Yesterday (27 July) marked 50 years since the introduction of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and therefore 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.
While it may be a shock to many that decriminalisation in England and Wales only came into action, in the grand scheme of things, an incredibly short time ago, it’s abundantly clear that global LGBT+ liberation is a long way off.
An annual report published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), found that a total of 72 countries and regions worldwide still impose a legal ban on homosexual relationships. Same-sex relationships between women are also illegal in 45 of these states.
Though we may be encouraged by the media and other such institutions to celebrate the 50-year milestone here in England and Wales, it’s important to stand firm in refusal to celebrate, rather reflect, until equality is met worldwide.
Sentences for those found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts range from fines to the death penalty – a practice that is still in operation as punishment in an astonishing 8 countries. Prison sentences, which range from one month to a life term, are a common consequence for those detained.
In Syria and Iraq, it is non-state actors that carry out the death penalty, whilst in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Yemen and in parts of Syria and Iraq, homosexual acts are punishable by death under sharia law. In 5 other countries, Afghanistan, Qatar, Mauritania, the UAE and Pakistan, death is also the maximum sentence, however records suggest that this has not yet been implemented.
Though advances are continuing to be made around the globe, in instances such as Germany voting to legalise same-sex marriage back in June and conversations surrounding gender identity being propelled into the spotlight, this is not to suggest equality in even the most progressive parts of the world.
Despite legal equality existing in many parts of the world, in the West in particular, there are still stark examples of homophobia and transphobia at a governmental level. Just this week Donald Trump imposed a ban on transgender people serving in the US military, while the UK government recently signed a £1bn deal with notorious anti-gay party, the DUP.
Encouragement from wider society may tempt you into marking the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation in England and Wales with joy – but as Attitude Editor Cliff Joannou recently said, “until we are all free, none of us are free” – and this is a statement that rings just as true today as it did 50 years ago.