THE ROLE OF LAW IN DEVELOPING AND PERPETUATING HOMOPHOBIA, JAN BRIDGET

General

* Most officials (judges, police inspectors, barristors, solicitors, probation officers and prison officers) are white, middle and upper class, non-disabled, men. They will treat people not from their background more harshly. Whilst many of these powerful people will be gay men, they will be closetted; closetted lesbians and gays are more likely to be more harsh so as not to disclose their sexuality. For example, MPs recently voting against reduction in Age of Consent for Gay men to 16 years. They will also be open to extortion because they are closet!

* Why are laws made? Who made them? For what purpose? Many of our laws originate from Christianity. Most laws were made to keep certain people in power and others oppressed.

* Social Enquiry Reports (SERs) help to determine sentences. Research shows that SERs are written mainly by white, middle class, probation officers (usually heterosexual men) and discriminate in what they say, how they say it and what they recommend.

Specific

* Section 28 of Local Government Act (not promote homosexuality or acceptance of pretend family).

* H.M. Forces Act - Homosexuals discharged.

* Age of Consent - 18 for gay men.

* Public Order Act. (Holding hands/kissing in public).

* Custody - Lesbians lose their children in divorce cases.

* None of above criminal for heterosexuals.

* Immigration not allowed for Homosexual partners.

* Gross Indecency Act.

* Sentences - longer than heterosexuals, e.g. Saunders case (1991).

* No anti-discrimination laws, therefore people can freely discriminate, e.g. Can be sacked for being homosexual; can be harassed in work, housing, etc.

* Treatment of lesbians and gay men in prison by other prisoners, prison officers.

* Solicitors, barristers, homophobic, not understand experience of homosexual (e.g. Jenny Saunders).

* Not marry, not have security, divorce, automatic rights of spouse on death, d.s.s., tax, etc.

* Police harassment, abuse.

* The legal system perpetuates the stereotyped image of a Woman as a mother and wife, therefore someone who fits this stereotype are more likely to get less harsh treatment; those who have fallen from the stereotype due to certain circumstances (i.e. husband's left) are also likely to receive less harsh treatment whereas those Women who do not fit into the stereotype, i.e. single heterosexual Women and Lesbians, are more likely to get harsher treatment.

© J. Bridget/Lesbian Information Service, 1996