Sexual Offences Act: Four challenges gay people still face in the UK

How the lives of gay men were changed with the Sexual Offences Act of 1967Getty

Fifty years ago, decriminalisation marked a turning point for gay rights in Britain. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 was the first time any law regarding homosexual acts had been reformed for centuries - specifically since 1533, when Henry VIII made anal sex illegal. It meant it was now legal for two men over the age of 21 to have sex in England and Wales.

The landscape for gay rights has changed remarkably in 50 years. Gay women and men can now marry, enter into civil partnerships and adopt children - but that isn't to say that equality has been fulfilled.

Hate crime

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There is still some way to go to tackle homophobic hate crime. In the three months after the Brexit vote in June 2016, hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people soared by 147%, according to the LGBT anti-violence charity Galop.

A 2016 report by the charity found four out of five LGBT people had experienced hate crime. A quarter had experienced violent hate crime, a third experienced online hate crime and a tenth experienced sexual violence. Yet only a quarter of victims reported the last hate crime they experienced - because they felt it wouldn't be treated seriously.

Discrimination

Unbelievably, four out of ten Brits believe gay sex is unnatural, according to a survey carried out by PinkNews. The poll found that of those who have an opinion, 42% of people agreed that personally speaking, they thought gay sex was unnatural.

Education

Currently, children in British schools aren't properly taught about LGBT sex and relationships. A recent report by Stonewall found LGBT-related information was most scarce in faith schools. The survey of nearly 4,000 LGBT young people on their experiences in secondary schools and colleges across Britain found nearly half - 45% - had been bullied for being LGBT.

Although sex and relationships education is now a statutory requirement in all schools, the law itself does not require it to be LGBT-inclusive. Teaching young people about different relationships and acceptance is essential to a tolerant society. Education is crucial to teach young people about the biological or physical aspects of same-sex relationships – which includes education about safe sex.

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LGBT asylum seekers

Despite facing persecution and even death in their home countries, LGBT asylum seekers risk being flown home by the Home Office. Failed asylum seekers, many of whom are survivors of violence, conflict and persecution, are placed in immigration detention centres for administrative convenience before being sent back to their countries of origin.

Speaking to IBTimes UK in 2015, Grace* an asylum seeker from Uganda, said she fled to the UK in 2006 after being arrested at a peaceful protest held by an LGBT rights group at a university in Kampala. In Uganda, she had been sexually assaulted in prison for six months.

After her UK visa expired, Grace* was detained at Yarl's Wood, an immigration removal centre for women. Grace told the police she had been in contact with UK authorities over her visa but she struggled to talk about her traumatic experience.

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"I have a problem with talking about the things I've gone through, about being a victim of torture," she said at the time. "You have to keep telling these stories over and over again. I told the police that is one of the main reasons why I didn't go back to the authorities. I was taken to Yarl's Wood where I stayed for five months. That was like another torture."

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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