Gross indecency

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Gross indecency is a legal term in the English-speaking world that was originally used to criminalize sexual activity between men that falls short of the definition of sodomy, which required penetration. The term was first used in British law in a statute of the British Parliament in 1885 and was carried forward in other statutes throughout the British Empire. The offense was never actually defined in any of the statutes which used it, which left the scope of the offense to be defined by court decisions. The concept of gross indecency as a criminal offense is reflective of Victorian-era morality.

History[edit]

The term gross indecency was first used in section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, known as the Labouchere Amendment, which criminalized gross indecency between men.

Gross indecency statutes consequently spread throughout the British Empire. Canada adopted the term in section 178 of the Criminal Code in 1892. The term was also used in the Criminal Code (sections 206 (1906, 1927), 149 (1953–1954), 157 (1970), 161 (1985)) as well as in the Criminal Law Amendment Act (1968–1969, section 7); however, all statutes that used the term were repealed in 1985 with an amendment to both the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act.[1]

Oscar Wilde was charged and convicted of gross indecency in 1895. His trial and punishment is the subject of the 1997 play Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.

Alan Turing plead guilty to the crime in 1952, the consequences of which led to his suicide in 1954. Turing, who had been convicted of gross indecency for consensual, private homosexual acts, received a posthumous pardon in 2013.[2] In 2017, under the Alan Turing law, all men convicted of gross indecency due to consensual, private sexual acts were pardoned.[2]

The United Kingdom later used the term in the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and in section 1(1) of the Indecency with Children Act 1960.

Today[edit]

Australia[edit]

South Australia[edit]

In Australia, a gross indecency statute exists in South Australia, with gross indecency requiring the involvement of a minor (a person under 16 years old). A first-time offense is a three-year felony, and any subsequent offense is a five-year felony.[3]

Kenya[edit]

Gross indecency between male persons of any age, in public or private, is a felony punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.[4] Gross indecency is a lesser offense than sodomy, which is punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment. LGBT rights activists are trying to repeal the law.[5]

United States[edit]

Michigan[edit]

In the United States, Michigan is the only state that currently has gross indecency statutes. Michigan has three types of gross indecency crimes exist, all of which are five-year felonies:

  • Gross indecency between male persons[6]
  • Gross indecency between female persons[7]
  • Gross indecency between male and female persons[8]

Gross indecency between male persons was codified first, and the other two were made into laws later. Historically, the definition of gross indecency was unclear, and courts relied on nebulous notions such as the "common sense of society". The vagueness of the term allowed for adults who engaged in consensual sex with no monetary transactions in the privacy of their own homes to be charged with the crime, and men who had sex with men were particularly vulnerable to prosecution. Over time, the definition increasingly narrowed through Michigan Supreme Court decisions, and a 1994 decision officially narrowed it to sex acts that occurred in a public place or that involved a minor, the application of force, or a monetary transaction.[9] Michigan now has separate statutes addressing all four aforementioned acts in statutes regarding indecent exposure, criminal sexual conduct (CSC), and prostitution;[10][11][12] however, the gross indecency statutes remain in effect.

The gross indecency statutes have been criticized by LGBT rights activists.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Acts of Gross Indecency". www.constancebackhouse.ca.
  2. ^ a b Craig, Jon (19 October 2016). "Men to be pardoned for abolished sex offences". Sky News. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  3. ^ http://www.caldicottlawyers.com.au/criminal-offences/sexual-offences/acts-of-gross-incecency
  4. ^ Kenya Penal Code, Sections 162, 163, and 165
  5. ^ "Civil rights group launches challenge to Kenya's strict anti-gay laws". The Independent. 16 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Gross indecency; between male persons". Legislature.MI.gov. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  7. ^ "Gross indecency; female persons". Legislature.MI.gov. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  8. ^ "Gross indecency; between male and female persons". Legislature.MI.gov. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  9. ^ "Lexis Advance - Online Legal Research -LexisNexis". litigation-essentials.lexisnexis.com.
  10. ^ "Michigan Legislature - Section 750.335a". www.legislature.mi.gov.
  11. ^ "Michigan Legislature - 328-1931-LXXVI". www.legislature.mi.gov.
  12. ^ "Michigan Legislature - 328-1931-LXVII". www.legislature.mi.gov.
  13. ^ Serra, Rudy. "Viewpoint: Keep crying, Corvino - Michigan remains far behind". PrideSource.com. Retrieved November 13, 2017.