Activity: Participating in or organising an event types › Participation in workshop, seminar, course
'From the censorship of Jenny to Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988.'
This is the story of a children’s book, a moral panic, and a bad law. Section 28 of the Local Government Act was enacted in England, Wales and Scotland in 1988, amid a tabloid storm centred on Susanne Bösche’s Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin, a children’s book about an ordinary weekend in the life of an ordinary family: Jenny, her father, Martin, and his partner, Eric. Section 28 of the Local Government Act (1988) stated that ‘(1) A local authority shall not— (a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality; (b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. Jenny became the favourite exhibit of Section 28 supporters, cited repeatedly in Parliament as evidence of the promotion of homosexuality and an example of the meaning of ‘pretended family relationship’. Newspapers, Ministers and Members of Parliament implied that Jenny was used in classrooms and stocked in school libraries. This paper will discuss the mediation of Jenny: how it was represented in newspapers and Parliamentary debates; how it was used by the Inner London Education Authority to mediate conversations about family relationships and intolerance; and the invitation to mediated discussion the book offers its readers. I will also reflect on the legacy of the censorship of Jenny: the chilling effect created by Section 28.