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Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Wednesday, 24 August 2005 10:41 UK

HK gay sex rules 'discriminatory'

Gay rights supporters wear pink T-shirt with Chinese words that read ' No one knows I am gay" during a parade in Hong Kong Monday, May 16, 2005
Hong Kong's gay men want equal rights

A Hong Kong judge has ruled that laws prohibiting gay sex by men under the age of 21 are unconstitutional.

The High Court judge, Michael Hartmann, said the current laws discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.

A 20-year-old gay man, William Roy Leung, had challenged Hong Kong's existing laws on the issue.

They allow sex between heterosexuals and lesbians from the age of 16, but anyone under the age of 21 who engages in sodomy could face life in prison.

The government says it will study the judgement.

Mr Hartmann said the current laws were "demeaning of gay men who are, through the legislation, stereotyped as deviant".

The laws prohibit "gross indecency" or sexual intimacy between men if one or both are younger than 21.

Welcomed

Gay rights activists welcomed the ruling, saying that 63 men have been arrested under the laws in the past five years.

They said that the law was now unenforceable.

"It is a landmark case and a long overdue judgement," said activist Roddy Shaw.

"It's the first time that sexual orientation has been upheld as a protected ground against discrimination in a Hong Kong court," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Hong Kong is now holding consultations on the legislation. The territory's security bureau said it was studying the ruling.


What do you think of the ruling that current laws are discriminatory? Have you been affected by laws prohibiting gay sex for men under 21 in Hong Kong? Send us your comments and experiences using the form at the bottom of the page.

I grew up in Hong Kong. Being queer in that city is isolating enough, given its lack of social programs and clubs/bars, and its homophobic atmosphere. As a queer woman coming of age in that city 7m people, I felt alone, confused and ignorant. I can't imagine what it must have been like for my male counterparts, having that extra level of fear that, even should they *find* someone to love (which is hard enough!), they'd be thrown in jail because of it. Being queer in HK sucked-- I'm glad this ruling will ease the situation somewhat.
Jo M, Hong Kong / Vancouver

In my opinion, this is a sure win for equality in Hong Kong. This judgement definitely strengthens the idea of equality before the law, and the credibility of the Basic Law. As a Christian, I don't feel that this judgement is bad either. I don't condone gay sex, but all humans should have freedom of choice, whether they wish to abide to the laws of God or not. Most importantly I don't feel that there will be more gay sex in Hong Kong or that Hong Kong will be labelled as the sex city of the Far East. Permitting people to do something, doesn't mean that people will definitely do it. There are after all social and moral values that hold a society together. This judgement shows that our society has reached a level of self control and maturity to take back from the Government our inherent human right of liberty.
Leo, Hong Kong

I have been affected by laws prohibiting gay sex for men under 21 in the UK. These laws cause great suffering, confusion and discrimination towards the affected young men. The perverse issue here is that law abiding people suffer the most as these people get pulled in two opposite directions.
Shane James, Exeter, UK

I personally think that the current law in Honk Kong is discriminatory. Why do they distinguish between gay sex from straight and lesbian one? It seems so odd. Sexual orientation must not be used to discriminate against people. There is already an age limit for straight sex, why don't they generalise this?
Lars, Germany

The ruling is a triumph for equality, and will further open up Hong Kong as an inclusive, tolerant, and progressive society. The old laws were based on the Victorian notion that homosexual behaviour is socially deviant, and therefore it was fine to subject this minority to particular hardship by first criminalizing gay sex, and then in 1991 by decriminalizing it but setting 21 as the age of consent for gay men as opposed to 16 for heterosexuals and lesbians. This is the but the next logical step towards removing the remnants of discriminatory legislation, which are based on conceptions of morality and social cohesion which are clearly outdated in modern-day Hong Kong.
Anonymous, Hong Kong

This is excellent news. It is high time that such archaic laws and beliefs were stamped out. However, Hong Kong is just the tip of a very large Chinese iceberg and many more gay men are suffering discrimination on mainland China. There is much more of a struggle to come, but this is certainly a huge breakthrough.
Andrew Fyall, London

No, personally I don't think the current laws are discriminatory. If the age is lowered to 16 years old, Hong Kong will be opening their doors to more gay sex. I don't think the HK want to be labelled as the sex city of the Far East.
Tony, London

This is great news for gay men in Hong Kong. It is also good news for all people in Hong Kong because it stresses the independence of the courts and the strength of the Basic Law that upholds democracy, pluralism, human rights and the rule of law. Beijing should take note and I hope that this means that China and other countries in Asia will follow suit.
Andrea Woelke, London, UK




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