Questions in two Parliaments
At European level, and working closely with Lib-Dem MEP Graham Watson, several questions have been tabled regarding the fact that Gibraltar continues to discriminate on the issue of the legal age of consent for sexual minority citizens and counter to judgments from the European Court of Human Rights. Questions related to the non-establishment of an Equal Opportunities Commission as required by EC law will also be raised. Whilst Government through the Equal Opportunities Ordinance 2006 has made provision for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to undertake responsibilities in this field it is a matter of contention as to whether this complies with the clearly delineated requirement under the EC’s Race Directive for the setting up of an independent body. Incorporation of such a body into an already-existing organisation such as the CAB with links to Government through the latter’s provision of premises, allocation of funds for staffing and other resources do not, in our view, comply with the EC’s requirements and we are making our views known to the European Commission on this matter.
At Westminster level, the Hon.Emily Thornberry MP has recently asked questions in the House related both to the gay age of consent and general discrimination issues. The answer afforded Ms Thornberry by the Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, Geoff Hoon, are in our view highly unsatisfactory. We are contacting Ms Thornberry directly to fill in the gaps in the information that Mr Hoon has provided her with and which may, in our view, give a misleading view to UK Parliamentarians of the realities.
The Westminster questions come within a background wherein HMG has introduced safeguards against discrimination on goods and services for sexual minorities. This now means that in the UK citizens cannot be discriminated against in shops, hotels, bars or anywhere else when they act as ordinary citizens in the pursuit of goods and services. This contrasts starkly with Gibraltar’s situation where no such protections exist and discrimination at the point of rendering or obtaining goods and services may be legally denied to a person by virtue only of their sexual orientation.
In the overall picture, however, Equality Rights Group GGR welcomes the fact that questions at both UK and European levels are being asked and which deliver the results of a 7 year campaign of information and pressure on the part of this organisation. GGR continues to apply pressure where pressure is necessary and effective.
At the same time, approaches made by GGR to PDP leader Keith Azzopardi to clarify his Party’s policy towards sexual minorities in Gibraltar have so far produced nil results six weeks after our written request other than in the form of an automated e-mail advice by the PDP that it will be dealt with ‘as soon as possible’. Despite follow-up on our part requesting that the matter should now receive the PDP’s attention, we have neither received any further information nor has any effort been made by the PDP to personally contact us. For the avoidance of doubt, GGR will now be posting our request for clarification to the PDP to its officially published address by registered post. As we pointed out in our first public statement on this matter, we urge Mr Azzopardi’s clear statement of policy in relation to this issue and continue to alert sexual minority citizens, their friends, families and supporters to pay particular attention to failure by the PDP in informing the public as to their policy as it is of relevance to the choices before them at the forthcoming Elections. If a policy is indeed eventually issued by the PDP, we similarly urge citizens to pay detailed attention to any statement and to gauge what it means in real terms to their lives. Meanwhile, we again reiterate our willingness to sit round the table and amicably talk with the PDP should they so desire in the wider interest of genuine democratic change, which we understand to be the purported aim of Mr Azzopardi’s Party.