Landmark gay sex ruling leaves law biased against heterosexuals: experts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2005, 12:00am

A new issue of discrimination - this time against heterosexuals - may have been raised in Wednesday's landmark court judgment overturning four provisions outlawing all forms of sex between men under 21.


Legal experts said yesterday that while the ruling set the age of consent for anal sex at 16 for males, a man who performed anal sex on a woman below 21 could still be prosecuted. As a heated debate broke out, there were also predictions that the government could appeal the ruling and a complex set of legal amendments lay ahead if it was upheld.


William Leung sought a judicial review of the law regarding the act of buggery between men but not between a man and a woman.


'Now it has become discrimination against the heterosexual,' said Eric Cheung Tat-ming, associate professor of law at University of Hong Kong.


Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said there was 'a very big chance' the Department of Justice would appeal and if the judgment was upheld 'it will involve a very complicated process of law amendments'.


'What seemed to be fair on one side may be unfair to the other; [one could] say men are the ones who pay the price while women are out of the penalising scheme,' he said.


Ms Chan, a former social worker, told a radio phone-in programme host: 'While [gay rights activists] proudly claim their rights ... do they realise the effects and questions it has generated and that all seven million Hong Kong citizens will have to shoulder their problems as well?'


Another caller said: 'We must not blindly demand equality for different genders and action just for the sake of equality. We should respect the differences.'


At least two Chinese-language newspapers urged the government to appeal the ruling, while five others called for a careful balance of law and social morality.


Supervisor of the Society for Truth and Light Helen Fu Dan-mui, said: 'Straight men who performed anal sex on their girlfriends under 21 are guilty just as gay men, so where is the discrimination?'


But gay rights activist Roddy Shaw Kwok-wah of the group Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities said it was safe sex that mattered in all cases. 'What makes you think a 16-year-old has the maturity for heterosexual sex while he can't handle homosexual sex? On physical and hygienic level, vaginal sex can be just as dangerous as anal sex without the use of a condom.'