The Speijer report

The Speijer study in Norwegian.
The Dutch Speijer study was pubished in Norwegian in 1971 by DNF-48.
In 1972 homosexual relations between men was decriminalized in Norway by §213 of the penal code. A scientific analysis from the Netherlands, the Speijer report, played a crucial role in this success.

Removing the regulation in § 213 in Norwegian Penal Code of 1902 had been the most important issue for the Norwegian gay rights movement since its beginning in 1950.

Especially after the second world war, the provision was rarely used. However, the ban had still played an important symbolic role: it helped maintain the negative view on same-sex sexuality that permeated Norwegian society. On several occasions, it was used as an argument against lesbians and gay men organizing. The fear of negative reactions caused the DNF-48, Det norske forbundet av 1948 (The Norwegian Federation of 1948), to be very cautious about announcing and recruiting new members.

In 1966 Karen-Christine (Kim) Friele, was chosen as the organization’s new chairwoman. Combined with an increasingly open dialogue and rhetoric, this initiated a more offensive strategy in the Norwegian gay right movement.

Age of consent

For Friele and her allies it was evident that the repeal of § 213 had to form the basis of the further struggle for acceptance. As mentioned, § 213 was rarely put to actual use, and in the 1950s DNF-48 feared that the provision was being replaced with a new rule defining a higher age of consent for homosexuality than for heterosexuality. In reality this would be a deterioration of the status quo, because such a law would probably have been used extensively, as it seemed obvious that it would affect both lesbians and gay men.

Most countries in Western Europe had different ages of consent for homo- and heterosexuality. For instance, England and Wales decriminalized same-sex sexuality between adults as long as it was kept private, in 1967. However, this was only a partial decriminalization as the age of consent for homosexual sex was set to 21 years, five years higher than for heterosexual sex. Many gay men therefore became victims of persecution from the police and judiciary in the United Kingdom in the years to follow.

The Norwegian gay rights movement understandably feared a similar situation unfolding in Norway.

The Seduction Theory

From the early 1900s onward, psychiatrists and psychologists had argued that the youth had to be "protected" from homosexuality. The undisputable underlying premise being that spreading homosexuality would cause harm to the society. These psychiatrists and psychologists claimed the sexual orientation of an individual is often not determined before a person reaches their twenties.To become hetero- or homosexual depended on the impulses and experiences one was exposed to as an adolescent. If someone was lured into sex with the same gender at this age, they could risk their sexuality going in an unwanted direction.

This theory has been called the theory of seduction, and in the late 1960s it was still recognized by Norwegian experts, even amongst psychiatrists and psychologists. Therefore, Friele and her fellow activists were certain that the issue with the Seduction Theory and a raised age of consent would become a Gordian knot.

The Speijer Report and the decriminalization in the Netherlands

Sexual relations between people of the same gender was legalized already in 1811, but in 1911 a ban against sexual relations where one participant was over 21 and the other under, was introduced in the Penal Code § 248. Shortly after this re-criminalization, an organization was formed to fight against the ban, but the fight was not intensified before the late 1960s.

In relation to this, a committee was appointed to report on homosexuality with particular focus on the Seduction Theory. Was it possible that young people over 16 could develop persistent homosexuality or have their heterosexuality development damaged if they had homosexual experiences in their adolescence? The leader of the committee was Nico Speijer (1905-1981), professor in social psychiatry at the University of Leiden. The report came to the conclusion that homosexuality "is caused by a combination of instinctive (innate) tendencies and factors that become visible during the earliest childhood years. Long before the child reaches the age of 16 it is therefore decided to what extent he or she will develop heterosexually or homosexually.

The Speijer Reports conclusions was determinative for the repeal of § 248 in 1971. The Netherlands became the first country in Western Europe to introduce the same age of consent for both homo- and heterosexual sex.

Contact between Friele and Speijer

At the same time as the debate in the Netherlands, DNF-48 and Kim Friele were working to abolish § 213 in Norway. In the private archives of Friele in The Norwegian Queer archive, there are a number of letters and documents that show how the organization followed the work in other countries. For instance, letters from the correspondence between Friele and Anthony Gray (1927-2010) in the British organization Homosexual Law Reform Society can be found here. Gray referred to the ongoing work in the Netherlands, and this was probably what made her aware of the Speijer Report. On the 6th of July 1970, Karen-Christine Friele wrote to Nico Speijer (SkA: A-0001, Friele, Fa2). She explained that DNF-48 planned to publish a booklet with articles from different experts both from within and outside Norway. She wanted Speijer to contribute to this publication with an article about the main founds in his report.

Speijer answered the 14th of July that unfortunately he could not find the time to write an article for the federations publication, but he would happily send his report and let them publish parts or the whole article in its entirety (ibid). To this letter Friele responded that she had already received the article in English from Anthony Gray and that DNF-48 had decided to distribute it in English. (ibid, Friele til Speijer 20.7.1970).

Speijer as a weapon in the Norwegian debate

When the federation's publication, § 213: Onde eller nødvendighet? (§ 213: An evil or a necessity?), was published in December that year, it contained a paragraph about the Speijer Report, (Friele 1970). DNF-48 later released a translation of the report's conclusios, in April 1971. At this time, Friele worked at the Information office for insurance, a trade organization of sorts. In an interview she has described how the Speijer Report was duplicated: "Then I stencilled it, in the still of the night in The House of Insurance! I claim that the Doctrine of Necessity legitimized the enormous theft of paper". (Eikvam 1996: 11).

On the 19th of April, DNF-48 wrote a letter to the members of Parliament, the day after to the Minister of Justice, Oddvar Berrefjord (Ap), where they posed arguments for the decriminalization, with references to the Speijer Report. (Halsos 1999: 161). At this time, it was evident that something was going to happen. The federation met understanding and engagement from the young member of Parliament Arne Kielland (Ap), who had brought the case up for the Parliament in december 1970. Now a new government was established, and he wanted to bring it up again. DNF-48 was still a small organization with limited resources; Friele had her office in the tailor shop of Willy Mikkelsen at Hagegata in Tøyen in Oslo's eastern part. Mikkelsen and his partner, Jan Nordbø, also put down great effort during this period of time. It was important to reach the members of Parliament with the information and convince them that a complete decriminalization was the right choice. Here the stenciled version of the Speijer Report played a crucial role, which Friele explains in her autobiography:

"When I think back to May 1971, I always have to think about the day Randi Lund (pseudonym) and I pulled a rickety old handcart filled with Speijer reports down Markveien during rush hour. People honked their horns the whole time as we rattled down the road, in between buses and cars. I will never forget racing against the clock, the constant activity in the tailor shop in Hagegata, all to reach the members of Parliament in time for the Speijer Report to let the doubters see it for themselves. I can picture it all very clearly, maybe because I have never experienced anything that can really compare to these fourteen dramatic days almost nineteen years ago." (Friele 1990, 197.)

When Arne Kielland spoke the second of July 1971, many of the members of Parliament were already familiar with the conclusions of the Dutch report, due to the Norwegian gay right activists. In his interpellation Kielland asked if the government would consider repelling § 213 in the Criminal Code (Parliamentary proceedings 1970/71, 2945). He also took the opportunity to warn about introducing legislation that introduced a higher age of consent and referred to the Speijer Report, which rejected the theory of seduction and thereby also the arguments for introducing such legislation, (ibid, 2947, Halsos 1999, 74). Without going into details in the following procedures, it must be mentioned that the Speijer Report became an important part of the debate and formed part of the foundation for the decision to repell § 213 in 1972. In the Odelsting (a chamber in parliament) 65 voted against 13 voted for a complete decriminalization of sex between gay men. (In the Lagting it was 18 against 4). (Halsos 1999, 52). There is reason to believe that arguments from the Speijer Report contributed to this significant majority. However, they did not achieve complete agreement, the representatives voting against, wanted instead a higher age of consent.

Further research

Martin Skaug Halsos showed how significant the Speijer Report was in the Norwegian debate about decriminalizing homosexuality in his thesis in history (Halsos, 1999). Karen-Christine Friele has also highlighted how important the report was herself. In a publication from 1975 the Norwegian Federation of 1948 concluded that the Speijer Report "became absolutely crucial for the decriminalization debate in Norway" (Det norske forbundet 1975, 6). However, there is still a lot to say about the report's influence both in Norway and internationally. A project about how this report and other scientific results from abroad were used in the Norwegian debate could have great value. It may seem like the British Wolfenden Report from 1957 and its influence are themes that have been explored more than the Dutch Speijer Report (see amongst others, Lewis 2016). For the Norwegian debate in the beginning of the 1970's, there is little doubt that the latter was the most important. In The Norwegian Queer Archive you can find the correspondence between Kim Friele and Nico Speijer. Furthermore, the correspondence between Friele and Antony Gray is discussing the Speijer report. There might be other possible traces after the Speijer Report in Friele's archives.




Det norske forbundet. 1971. 16 år for homofile. Konklusjonen på en hollandsk komitérapport. Oslo: Det norske forbundet av 1948.

Det norske forbundet. 1975. Homofili og forføring. Oslo: Det norske forbundet.

Eikvam, Turid. 1996. «Kim om pionertiden.» Løvetann, 19 (5): 8-11.

Friele, Karen-Christine. 1970. § 213: Onde eller nødvendighet? Oslo: Det norske forbundet av 1948.

Friele, Karen-Christine. 1990. Troll skal temmes. Oslo: Scanbok.

Halsos, Martin Skaug. 1999. «§ 213 i Almindelig Borgerlig Straffelov av 1902. Homoseksualitet i Norge og rettslige sanksjoner mot den fra slutten av 1800-tallet til 1972.» Hovedfagsoppgave, Universitetet i Oslo.

Lewis, Brian. 2016. Wolfenden’s Witnesses. Homosexuality in Postwar Britain. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Skeivt arkiv (SkA): A 0001, Friele, Karen-Christine. Fa2. Politiske saker: § 213.