Alan Turing, Sex And The Law

This is the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius awarded the OBE in 1945 for the role he played in breaking German codes at Bletchley Park. But in 1952, everything changed for him. That was the year he was arrested for homosexuality. He lost his security clearance and, rather than go to prison, accepted ‘chemical castration’. Some two years later he was found dead from cyanide poisoning.

In 2009, the then prime minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government. Unfortunately, as someone else said, the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history. There is a type of person who becomes enraged by what other people do sexually in private. And, unfortunately, those seem to be the people who make the laws. People continue to be persecuted for things that have nothing whatsoever to do with governments.

The UK’s first sodomy law, ‘An Acte for the punysshement of the vice of Buggerie’, was passed in the reign of Henry VIII in 1533. The maximum penalty was hanging and confiscation of property – which conveniently allowed Henry to confiscate monastery lands.

Sodomy remained a capital offence until 1861 and the law against it wasn’t repealed until 1967. Around the world, about 70 countries still have laws against homosexuality. Places that have the death penalty for homosexual acts include Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Mauritania, and Sudan, as well as parts of Nigeria and Somalia.

As recently as 1990, gay men in the UK were found guilty of assault and unlawful wounding after they had voluntarily taken part in sado-masochistic sex sessions, even though none of the men had needed medical treatment nor suffered permanent harm. Their appeal to the House of Lords was dismissed in 1993.

I don’t want to be thumped around during sex and I don’t suppose you do either, but what exactly has it got to do with the government? The government hasn’t intervened to stop people boxing, nor to prevent them taking part in extreme sporting events like the Iron Man, nor to prevent them having piercings. It’s something about sex that disturbs our legislators. I suggest they go to see a good psychotherapist.

If you’d like to say something on the subject, please click at the top of this article on the word ‘comments’.

One Reply to “Alan Turing, Sex And The Law”

  1. I read an article last week questioning whether Alan Turing deliberately poisoned himself because of homophobia. It seems that there is reason to believe his death was accidental. Sadly thoug,h homophobia doesn’t just occur in places like Iran where to be gay, can have life threatnening consequences. It is shocking that in the UK being gay can still cost lives. Of 4 recent teenage suicides in the town where I live, 3 were young gay men. We should all be challenging homophobic comments when we hear them or we are colluding and tacitly saying homophobia is ok. Comments young people commonly say like “Oh that’s so gay!” are not harmless and perpetuate stereotypes and bullying. Because some gay celebs are so popular it’s easy to assume prejudice no longer exisists but it does.

    At least one in ten people identify as lesbian or gay and then there are those who are bi sexual, transgendered etc. It’s time we celebrated such human diversity and stopped being so afraid.

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