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It’s A Sin: What was Section 28? What did Margaret Thatcher say about it?

Just awful.

It’s A Sin has become one of Channel 4’s most streamed shows ever within just a matter of weeks.

This hit drama explores the challenges men faced being gay in 1980’s London.

In addition to the tragic and terrifying AIDS epidemic, Section 28 was passed in 1988.

But what was it exactly? And what were the legal consequences? And why did Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister at the time, approve such an act?

What is Section 28?

Section 28 was a law passed in 1988. This new law made it illegal for homosexuality to be promoted or normalised in schools and councils.

Read more: Why do they say ‘La’ on It’s A Sin?

Specifically, the law stated that schools and councils were prohibited from “promot[ing] homosexuality or publish[ing] material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”.

ash in it's a sin channel 4
Nathaniel Curtis as Ash in It’s A Sin (Credit: Channel 4)

They were also banned from “promot[ing] the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

In fact, this was the first anti-gay law introduced in the UK in 100 years.

Read more: Why Stephen Fry didn’t enjoy the 1980’s gay social scene

Implemented by the Conservative Government, it appeared to unfortunately reflect widespread homophobic beliefs at the time.

An official study in 1983 showed that  75% of the British population believed that homosexuality was ‘always or mostly wrong’.

boy george with margaret thatcher
Boy George meeting Margaret Thatcher in 1998 (Credit: SplashNews)

The law was met with mass protests across the United Kingdom, with celebrities such as Sir Ian McKellen involved.

Boy George also wrote a song opposing the act called No Clause 28.

However, the law was not repealed until 2003.

What did Margaret Thatcher say about Section 28?

Section 28 was passed by the Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the time.

Thatcher publicly stated that children were being ‘cheated’ if they were taught being homosexual was a human right.

She said at the time: “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay.

“All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life.”

it's a sin
Nathaniel Curtis with Olly Alexander in It’s A Sin (Credit: Channel 4)

How is Section 28 covered in It’s A Sin?

Section 28 is covered in episode four of It’s A Sin.

This is when young teacher Ash is told to remove any mention of homosexuality from school books and materials.

What’s more, actor Nathaniel Curtis spoke to BT TV about Ash’s dilemma.

He explained: “When Ash is a bit older he becomes a teacher and he’s asked by another senior member of staff to get rid of all the books that ‘aren’t appropriate’ because of Section 28.

“It’s so hard for Ash because he’s someone who very rarely speaks without thinking.

“He’s someone with so many things he can say and it’s all bubbling up inside of him and I think this is the final straw.”

How to watch It’s A Sin

All five episodes of It’s A Sin are now available to stream on All4.

As of February 2021, the series has had 6.5 million streams.

Ian Katz, Channel 4’s chief content officer, said: “The extraordinary performance of It’s a Sin is a reminder that powerful drama with something important to say about the world can also be commercially successful.”

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