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United Nations, Geneva | Creative Commons/by Ludovic Courtès

by Rosa Freedman, School of Law, University of Reading

Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN’s first Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has resigned after a just year in his post, citing ill health and caring responsibilities. Before stepping down, he will deliver his second and final report. This is just the latest development in a long-running UN battle over LGBT rights – and it could herald a new attempt to undermine international efforts to protect and promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT individuals.

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By Katherine Harloe, Associate Professor in Classics and Intellectual History, University of Reading & Jessica Stevens-Taylor, LGBT+ Heritage Officer, Support U

An appeal for personal stories from members of the LGBT+ community has been issued as part of a project marking 60 years since the publication of a milestone report in the unfinished path towards equality.

Monday September 4 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden Report, which resulted 10 years later in 1967 in the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. The report was named after former University of Reading Vice Chancellor Sir John (later Lord) Wolfenden, who chaired the ‘Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’. He was Vice-Chancellor at the University of Reading from 1950 to 1964.

Now, the University and local LGBT+ charity Support U are seeking to mark the anniversary by collecting stories and recollections from those who have witnessed discrimination first-hand, but also felt the positive difference changes to the law over the past 50 years have made to their lives.

Monday’s anniversary comes two days after Reading Pride, and Support U’s partnership with Reading Buses means many will have seen Lord Wolfenden pictured on the side of buses over the weekend. While ‘pride’ was not an item on Wolfenden’s agenda, indeed his view was that gay people should not be visible, without events like Wolfenden’s Report the LGBT+ community would not have had a voice; they would still have been persecuted into the shadows.

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Wolfenden Lecture

THE INAUGURAL WOLFENDEN LECTURE

LGBT equality: past, present and future

Thursday 4 May – 7.00pm | doors at 6.30pm

Van Emden Theatre, Edith Morley

We are delighted to welcome guest speaker Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive, Stonewall to the University of Reading to deliver our inaugural Wolfenden Lecture. Ruth will be discussing ‘LGBT Equality: Past, Present and Future’.

Ruth Hunt is the Chief Executive of Stonewall. In 2015, Ruth was voted the third most influential LGBT person in Britain in the Independent’s Rainbow List. She continues to be an inspirational figure today.

This special event is named in honour of the report written by The Wolfenden Committee, which was chaired by Lord Wolfenden in 1957, the University’s Vice‑Chancellor between 1950 and 1964. The report became a key milestone in LGBT history in the UK when it recommended that, ‘… homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence.’

On the 60th Anniversary of The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden Report), we are pleased to celebrate this extraordinary part of our heritage with this special event to reflect on progress, and inspire future generations of the LGBT+ community and their allies to achieve great things.

Admission free. Booking essential. Please click here to register.

We look forward to welcoming you at what promises to be an interesting event.

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n 1957, the Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution chaired by Lord Wolfenden, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, recommended the decriminalization of consensual homosexual behaviour between men over the age of 21. Although the recommendations were not implemented for a further decade, this was a partial but significant step on path towards equal rights and freedom for LGBT+ people.

To mark the Report’s 60th anniversary, academic researchers from the University of Reading and Support U will discuss defining moments in LGBT+ history and its connection with Reading. We welcome the following speakers:

  • Dr Katherine Harloe, Associate Professor in the Department of Classics
  • Lorna McArdle, Co-founder and COO of LGBT Charity, Support U
  • Professor Peter Stoneley, Head of Department for English Literature
  • Chaired by: Dr Rhi Smith, Director for the Heritage and Creativity Institute

As part of the afternoon programme, the seminar will be followed by a wine reception. Spaces are limited for the seminar, and booking is essential. To book a place, please visit the events page or call 0118 378 6718.

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