Review of sex offence laws welcomed by gay activists

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The government confirmed yesterday that it would review Britain's sex legislation after a sexual offences review group publishes a report in two months' time.

The government confirmed yesterday that it would review Britain's sex legislation after a sexual offences review group publishes a report in two months' time.

The reforms would include further equality of treatment towards homosexuals. The legislation still makes it a crime for two men to kiss in public, punishable with a maximum sentence of five years in prison for gross indecency.

Angela Mason, the director of Stonewall, the gay rights group, said the organisation strongly supported the principles of non-discrimination embodied in the review. She said the review should be commended for its "acceptance that the sexual offences law should provide better protection for young, vulnerable people, and facilitate prosecutions of sex offenders.

"To do that it should not be discriminatory in any way and should abide by the principles of the Convention on Human Rights. Those are principles that our organisation very much supports," she said.

The wide-ranging review will also look at changing the rape laws by widening the definition of whether a victim withheld consent, to tackle concern that less than 20 per cent of cases result in a conviction.

The reform package was also welcomed by the English Collective of Prostitutes, which gave evidence to a sexual offences commission from the Home Office. A spokeswoman said: "Prostitution is not illegal but every way in which prostitutes work is criminalised. This results in widespread discrimination against prostitutes.

"We want the law to afford prostitutes greater protection and also offer a viable economic alternative through benefits and resources so that anyone can avoid going on the game because of poverty."

But the announcement provoked anger yesterday from conservatives and members of religious groups. Valerie Riches, the director of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said a national campaign against the proposals was "very much on the agenda.

"Parents are becoming tired of what is being taught to their children about sex. What we do not want is a charter for homosexuality and excessive tolerance that is going to damage our young people," she said.

"If sex laws need to be changed to make them correct and sensible then so be it. But concern that homosexuality is perceived on a par in all respects with heterosexuality is now very widespread."

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