Court rules age of consent for homosexuals is unconstitutional

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2005, 12:00am

Updated at 5.20pm:
Hong Kong's High Court on Wednesday ruled that laws banning men aged under 21 from having sex, including sodomy, were unconstitutional and undermined human rights, Hong Kong radio reported.

Mr Justice Michael Hartmann on Wednesday handed down the judgment for a judicial review of the laws, launched by a 20-year-old homosexual man, William Roy Leung.

Mr Leung was challenging the Criminal Ordinance, which prohibits homosexual sex between men if one or both were aged under 21, while heterosexuals and lesbians who were 16 or older were allowed to have sex. The ordinance also prescribes a two-year jail for men who commit acts of ''gross indecency'' with other men.

Mr Justice Hartmann said the laws discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and demeaned gay men.

He ruled that the laws contravened the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights ?X which states that all Hong Kong people were equally protected by the law from discrimination. He said the law breached several sections of the United Nations?? International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Mr Justice Hartmann described some sections of laws as a ''grave and arbitrary interference with the right of gay men to self-autonomy in the most intimate aspects of their private lives''.

He said homosexual sex should not be illegal as long as it did not affect a third party and was done with the consent of both parties.

Commenting on the ruling, Mr Leung said he was happy with it. He said he hoped homosexuals could be treated fairly in future.

Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities group chairman Roddy Shaw also hailed the ruling. He urged the government to make new laws to stop discrimination against sexual minorities.