Male rape to be made an offence

LAST night's historic move in the House of Lords will see a new offence of male rape carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, the same as that for the rape of a woman.

The change to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill follows the decision to lower the age of consent for homosexuals from 21 to 18 and means the maximum penalty for buggery without consent will rise from 10 years. Female victims of non-consensual buggery will also benefit from the reform, introduced by Labour's Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede.

Earl Ferrers, a Home Office minister, told peers that the 10- year jail limit had inhibited the courts. 'It is quite clear that the courts regard non-consensual buggery of a woman as at least as serious as rape.' Rape will now be defined as 'sexual intercourse with a person (whether vaginal or anal) who at the time of the intercourse does not consent to it'. The reform will ban media identification of male victims while giving them some protection against questioning about previous sexual history.

Government defeat, page 6