11th January 2008 14:11
Gibraltar's unequal age of consent and discriminatory sexual offences legislation have been taken to the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe by gay rights group GGR.At present male homosexual sex is legal at 18, rather than 16 for heterosexual and lesbian sex. The Council of Ministers is the highest level of the European body which is responsible for overseeing human rights. Gibraltar is a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom, and the British government has no control over social policy. Felix Alvarez, GGR (Gibraltar Gay Rights) chairman, said Gibraltar's failure to respect human rights standards is the United Kingdom's responsibility.Besides the unequal age of consent, Gibraltar also retains criminal offences such as buggery and gross indecency, which exclusively criminalise gay men.Mr Alvarez wrote on his blog:"The question has been tabled by Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock, and places British Prime Minister Gordon Brown under additional pressure to ensure the Gibraltar government complies with international law requirements."It is now seven and a half years since the European Court ruled that age of consent inequality is in violation of the Convention. "Compliance is normally required within a maximum 3 to 4 years."He added that the GGR will resist all political pressures and the group will continue to work to ensure that real and legally recognised human rights are truly respected and upheld, despite political and technical obstacles being placed by the Chief Minister Peter Caruana."We must all be wary of politicians who manipulate sentiment in this manner so as to bolster their failing electoral support," he wrote."Cheap populism has historically exploited the 'family values' argument to justify repressive policies on issues as diverse as interracial marriage, slavery and women's rights, and have been at the root of much incitement to hatred in the past."Mr Hancock told Portsmouth Today: "Gibraltar’s still part of our dominion and they should be covered by the same rules and regulations."The Prime Minister has a duty to put this point to Gibraltar's chief minister."In October the Prime Minister committed himself to ending the unequal age of consent in the self-governing territory. MEP Michael Cashman met with Gordon Brown and raised the issue with him. LGBT people in the territory have little legal protection from discrimination. Up until 1992, all male homosexual relationships were illegal.GGR was established in 2000 by Mr Alvarez, and in a community of 27,000 people where politics is dominated by the issue of sovereignty, they are openly campaigning for rights equal to those enjoyed by gay people in the UK. Mr Alvarez said there was "growing heterosexual support being received on Gibraltar-based internet pro-gay rights forums which have spontaneously established themselves."Spain claims that Gibraltar is their territory. It was seized by Britain in 1704, and its strategic position at the point where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean meet meant that the UK has retained the territory.