The ‘Tynwald’, the Isle of Man’s independent legislature, has voted to bring the homosexual age of consent into line with that of heterosexuals on the island, simultaneously scrapping rules stopping the discussion of homosexuality in schools on the island between teacher and pupil.

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act will come into force on September 1 2006 after the bill was passed with 15 votes for and 3 against, with the amended law felt by many to be long overdue.

New offences include the grooming of children, to prevent abuse of the new law.

The controversial scrapping of section 38 – which made the promotion of homosexuality illegal – arose after government consultation on the bill. Section 38 mirrors the UK’s own section 28 which was removed from law several years ago.

Though the bill originally received little interest from the islands population the proposal for the scrapping of section 38 resulted in debate across the island on the issue of homosexuality in schools.

His comments, including claims gay relationships should not be presented as equal to straight ones and that homosexuality carried health risks, caused outraged on the island says Isle of Man Today. It was claimed that the section 38 preventing teachers from giving much-needed advice to youngsters confused about their sexuality.

This brings the Isle of Man’s laws closer inline to those of the United Kingdom, yet the island does still not recognise civil partnerships. In March this year a lesbian couple were forced to receive a blessing instead of a legally binding arrangement as the civil partnership allows for. It has only recently undertaken consultation on the issue.

Peel MHK Hazel Hannan, not the Government, was responsible for section 38 appearing in the law, allwing for it to be repealed.

Abuse of the new law regarding the new age of 16 forced a compromise regarding people over the age of 18 in a position of trust. One of the original aims of the law, to stop the grooming of under 18′s, is also included. It is now an offence merely to ‘groom’ and meet a child, not just to commit acts with them.

Home Affairs Minister John Shimmin told the Isle of Man Today: ‘Protecting vulnerable children and young people from adults who might try to take advantage of them sexually is of the utmost importance.

‘We must do whatever we can to prevent the sexual grooming of children, but I also believe that most people in the Island would consider it unacceptable for a responsible adult to have a sexual relationship with a young person who is in their care.

‘In addition to being able to prosecute them for the first time, I hope the fact that anyone found guilty will have their name placed on the sex offenders’ registrar will have a strong deterrent effect.’