Gay activists to take equality fight to Legco

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 12:00am

Homosexuals want change to 'ridiculous' age-of-consent law

Gay rights activists plan to take their complaints on the unequal age of sexual consent for homosexuals to the legislature in an attempt to have the law scrapped.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that a young gay man is seeking legal aid to mount a judicial challenge to the law, which criminalises sex and 'gross indecency' between men aged under 21 while allowing sex between consenting heterosexuals aged 16 and over.

The activists plan to take the issue to the judicial, legislative and executive branches of the government as a matter affecting the right to health, privacy and equality for homosexuals. Consenting gay men risk life imprisonment if they have sex before the age of 21. Lesbian relationships are not addressed by the law.

Roddy Shaw Kwok-wah of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities said the campaigning group would take up the issue with the Legislative Council's panel on administration of justice and legal services.

Mr Shaw also plans to file a complaint to the Equal Opportunities Commission and an application to the Law Reform Commission, requesting it look into updating the law.

'We have taken the issue to Legco before but there was no compassion - they thought we were just fighting for the right to have sex, and were not interested,' he said.

'Or they said we could be threatening our youth because gay predators could then go to kids between 16 and 21 and molest them, but that is ridiculous because a 17-year-old woman can decide who to have intimate relations with but apparently a gay man cannot.'

Mr Shaw is optimistic that the message from the community against the 'archaic law' will be heard this time.

But the Security Bureau, asked if it would be open to the suggestion of having the laws amended, said the age of consent for homosexual intercourse was established through the Crimes (Amendment) Bill in 1991 after being 'fully considered and debated'.

'Homosexuality is still a sensitive subject in our society,' the bureau's spokeswoman said. 'Any proposed amendments to the existing law governing homosexual intercourse should be carefully addressed in the broader context of homosexuality as a whole.'