'How far did the changes of the 1960s in Britain create a 'permissive society'?'

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‘How far did the changes of the 1960s in Britain create a ‘permissive society’?’


Whilst there are slight variations amongst those who wish to define a permissive society, they all appear to agree it is a society of sexual liberation. From looking closely at the changes, for example new liberalising laws that were introduced such as the Abortion and Divorce Reform Act, it can be shown that ‘sexual intercourse began in nineteen sixty-three’ (Philip Larkin).

            The Abortion Act of 1967 legalised abortion in the United Kingdom up to 28 weeks gestation, however the question is what change this brought. When examining society prior to 1967 100,000-200,000 illegal abortion took place per year. Source C suggests that there wasn’t a permissive society by claiming that although people had more freedom, they didn’t use it, ‘they did not necessarily exercise that freedom’, however after legalisation the number of abortions increased from 35,000 a year in 1968 to 141,000 a year in 1975. Thus people were exercising their freedom, resulting in the Abortion Act creating a permissive society.

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            Prior to the passing of the Divorce Reform Act in 1969, divorce was only granted with evidence that one party had committed adultery and statistics show that there were fewer than two divorces per 1000 married couples. The Divorce Reform Act allowed couples to divorce if they had lived apart for two years and both wanted it or if they had lived apart for five years and one partner wanted it. Following the reform there was a huge increase in the number of divorces, by the mid-1970s nearly one in every two marriages ended in divorce. Although this change ...

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The author has a clear knowledge of the key legal changes that allowed for a permissive society but the central debate is missed; do these legal reforms reflect or create British society in the 1960s? Only one side of the debate is really addressed. 3 out of 5 stars.