Law and Sexuality

A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests

Conference Update: Wolfenden50

Every now and then a conference comes along that blows you away. The short Wolfenden50 Conference held at Kings College, London was one such conference (see: http://www.wolfenden50.org/ ). I wasn’t able to attend the whole conference though I was able to attend the Thursday and Friday (the Friday being slightly disrupted first thing with the attempted London bombings). The conference was opened by Jeffrey Weeks who was as optimistic as ever and flogging a new (no doubt brilliant) book. I’m not sure I share his overly optimistic view of the world though. The latest edition of the Pink Paper is a good example (see: http://www.pinkpaper.com/pinkpaper/story.asp?aid=350 ). The front page reports that Sixty-five per cent of lesbian and gay school pupils have been bullied because of their sexuality. Whilst Weeks is absolutely right to point to the legislative achievements of recent years there remains a huge amount to tackle social attitudes. It’s no good talking about how brilliant the repeal of section 28 was when kids are still getting the crap beaten out of them in the playground because their queer. The full figures are even more disturbing. 143,000 children have suffered from anti-gay name-calling, 64,000 have been physically attacked and 26,000 have had death-threats.

Other notable presentations at Wolfenden50 were an amazing presentation by Welby Ings (AUT University, NZ) who talked about the language and law relating to New Zealand Public Toilets 1860-1967. Welby is also an award winning film director and his presentation was fascinating. Over lunch we had a long conversation and it seems many of the themes and issues I’ve discovered in my own work (see earlier post for this month) are applicable in NZ too. There’s clearly scope for some interesting comparative research in this area. Robert Reynolds (University of New South Wales, Australia) talked about Wolfenden’s ‘grandchildren’ in the form of the current queer “youth” generation in Australia. He’s publishing a book that focuses on a number of young people alter this year. His research found that many young people can’t relate to ‘queer culture’ with its bars, clubs and saunas and so seek out alternative space. For some this meant their first sexual encounters might take place in a public sex environment. Worrying stuff.

The whole conference had been based around the 50th anniversary of the Wolfenden Report which ultimately paved the way for the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which legalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 in private. Fifty years! A lot has changed but there is so much socially still to be done.

One comment on “Conference Update: Wolfenden50

  1. Pingback: Blog at Ten – Law and Sexuality

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2007 by in Australia, Conference, Law, New Zealand, Wolfenden.

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