Lobby to lower age of consent

February 24, 1995

Red roses woven into a figure 16 became the mascot of a lobby of parliament this week as students protested that the age of consent for gay and bisexual men was still discriminatory.

The lobby, organised by the National Union of Students and supported by Stonewall, the Terrence Higgins Trust and Outrage, was held to mark the anniversary of the consent vote last year. The vote to lower the age of consent from 21 to 16 was defeated by MPs and the age was instead lowered to 18.

Richard Gordon and Alison Brown, student convenors of the NUS Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual campaign, said: "Thousands of gay and bisexual students are affected by the inequality in the age of consent law which forbids them from expressing their sexuality while allowing their heterosexual counterparts freedom to engage in sexual relations with partners."

With Outright Scotland, there is now a campaign for an amendment to lower the age of consent to 16 in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which reached the Commons this month.

There has not been a rush of prosecutions since the new law came into place last year. But Euan Sutherland, a 17-year-old student, has challenged the unequal age of consent of 18 in the European Court. The court has asked the British Government to justify its law and asked why it uniquely criminalises the young men it is supposed to protect.

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