glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 

   member name
  
   password
  
 
   
   Forgot Your Password?  
   
Not a Member Yet?  
   
JOIN TODAY. IT'S FREE!

 
  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy
  Copyright

 

 

 

 

 
social sciences

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

     
The Labouchère Amendment (1885-1967)  

In the Victorian era, common wisdom held that women were passive, sexually innocent beings who did not initiate sexual contact, while men possessed a lustful nature that could destroy the foundations of the family if not contained. Accordingly, the bill debated in the British House of Commons on August 6, 1885, "An Act to Make Further Provision for the Protection of Women, Girls, the Suppression of Brothels and Other Purposes," blamed men for all sexual transgressions and proposed to raise the age of consent for heterosexual intercourse.

Unexpectedly, the Radical MP Henry Du Pré Labouchère (1831-1912) proposed an amendment to make sex between men a crime. This Eleventh Clause of the Criminal Law Amendments Act stated that, "Any male person who in public or private commits or is a party to the commission of or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of any act of gross indecency with another male person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years with or without hard labor."

Sponsor Message.

was first criminalized in England in 1533. In 1861, the Offences against the Person Act reduced the punishment for sodomy from capital punishment to life imprisonment. Labouchère's amendment was, however, more insidious, for it extended punishment to any homosexual act between men, defined as "gross indecency." It also made the prosecution of homosexuals easier by not requiring evidence of penetration. Lesbian activity was completely ignored.

The bill passed on August 7 without any debate, possibly because the MPs were eager to return home to campaign for the upcoming election.

Labouchère had never before shown any particular interest in matters of sexuality, and it is a puzzle why he proposed his amendment. A banking heir, he had focused his attentions on the injustices of the English class system. He came to national prominence as the muckraking editor of the weekly Truth. Within its pages, he pushed for judicial reform, advocated abolishing the House of Lords in favor of an elected body, and attacked the racism evident within the imperialist system. The amendment may have been another attempt to protect the weak from predators.

Commonly referred to as the blackmailer's charter, the Labouchère Amendment led to an enormous amount of misery. Its vagueness about evidence, consent, and procuring led to expansive judicial interpretations.

Oscar Wilde, coincidentally a man Labouchère once admired, became the clause's most prominent victim in 1895. Wilde spent two years in prison at hard labor.

Many other gay men shared Wilde's fate, while countless thousands silently suffered extortion and the mental torture brought by fear of exposure. Many chose suicide over arrest and exposure.

The Labouchère amendment became a device for perpetrating fear and hatred of male homosexuality for more than 80 years. A Parliamentary committee studying homosexuality challenged the law in 1957, but not until 1967 did adult gay men gain the legal right to engage in consensual sex in England.

Caryn E. Neumann

     

 
zoom in
Henry Du Pré Labouchère.
  
 interact  
   
Contact Us
 
Join the Discussion
 
 find 
   
Related Entries
 
More Entries by this contributor
 
A Bibliography on this Topic

 
Citation Information
 
More Entries about Social Sciences
 
   
spacer
Popular Topics:

The Arts

 
Nyad, Diana
Nyad, Diana


Dattani, Mahesh


Baker, Josephine
Baker, Josephine


Cadmus, Paul
Cadmus, Paul


Caja, Jerome


Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall
Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall


Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators
Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators


Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male
Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male


Halston (Roy Halston Frowick)


New Queer Cinema

 
 


   Related Entries
  
social sciences >> Overview:  The Closet

If the closet has served to institutionalize homosexuality as shameful and inferior vis-à-vis the legitimate heterosexual culture, it has also provided a space of possibility for subversive sexual and political acts.

literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Nineteenth Century

From its beginning, the nineteenth century in England had a purposeful homosexual literature of considerable bulk, both male and female, though it was fettered by oppression.

social sciences >> Overview:  Ireland

Given the dominance of the Roman Catholic church on its culture, Ireland was a country in the closet until relatively recent times.

social sciences >> Overview:  London

The capital of the United Kingdom and one of the world's largest and most interesting cities, London has recently become home to an active and diverse glbtq population.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Kingdom I: The Middle Ages through the Nineteenth Century

The United Kingdom has a rich and vibrant legacy of queer cultural expression despite a long history of severe legal sanctions against male-male sexual acts and other manifestations of sexual and gender deviance.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Kingdom II: 1900 to the Present

Twentieth-century efforts to reform British law and public opinions about homosexuality met with mixed results, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century the United Kingdom has emerged as a leader in recognizing the rights of its glbtq citizens.

social sciences >> Cleveland Street Scandal

The Cleveland Street scandal of 1889, involving members of the nobility and allegations of a government cover-up, fueled the perception of homosexuality as an aristocratic vice that corrupted working-class youths.

literature >> Corelli, Marie

The popular English novelist Marie Corelli is now known chiefly as a camp figure who inspired E. F. Benson's Lucia.

social sciences >> Turing, Alan

One of the greatest scientists of his generation, computer pioneer Alan Turing was also a victim of cold war homophobia.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.

social sciences >> Wolfenden Report

The Wolfenden Report, a 1957 British government study, recommended that homosexual behavior between consenting adults in private no longer be criminalized in England.


    Bibliography
   

Pearson, Hesketh. Labby: The Life and Character of Henry Labouchere. New York: Harper, 1937.

Smith, F. B. "Labouchere's Amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill." Historical Studies [Australia] 17 (1976): 165-75.

Weeks, Jeffrey. Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain from the Nineteenth Century to the Present. London: Quartet, 1977.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Neumann, Caryn E.  
    Entry Title: The Labouchère Amendment  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated May 5, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/labouchere_amendment.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

This Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.

www.glbtq.com is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.