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‘Gross Indecency Between Females’: The 1921 Parliamentary Debates

  • Caroline DerryEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

The deliberate silencing of sex between women was overtly articulated in 1921 parliamentary debates on creating an offence of ‘gross indecency between females’. The amendment passed the House of Commons but was rejected by the House of Lords, making a significant yet contradictory moment when a policy reliant upon silence was publicly discussed. This chapter analyses those debates and their wider significance. It places them within a context of social disruptions and anxieties around gender, race, and class. While their most obvious cause was the First World War and its aftermath, others included the progress of the women’s movement, sexology and the sex reform movement, and women’s entrance into public life, particularly in the courts and legislature. The debates’ ultimate reassertion of silencing made them a paradoxical moment of lesbian invisibility and hypervisibility, which set the tone for the following decades.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law SchoolThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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