Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Age of consent breakthrough - Gordon Brown steps in

“Today, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged direct action to ensure the Government of Gibraltar equalises the age of consent. This comes after submissions recently made by GGR to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament,” Felix Alvarez, Chairman of Equality Rights Group GGR stated today.

“This is an opportune moment for Government and GGR to sit round the table and start a process of real dialogue towards progress for Gibraltar’s gay community. It is a good moment also for the new Justice Minister to play a role in reconciliation,” he added.

Mr Alvarez added that Equality Rights Group GGR is indebted to the support it has received from Patron Michael Cashman MEP for raising the matter directly with the British Prime Minister.

“In a recent press release, we predicted that the unacceptable situation of same-sex partners in Gibraltar would lead to intervention similar to that of 1993, when the British Government had to enforce European Convention provisions on the Rock as a result of moral and legal failure on the part of our own authorities,” Mr Alvarez continued.

“It is a shame for Gibraltar that, despite all the spin we hear from those in power, human rights progress comes only as a result of external pressure and obligations. But it is a particular shame because such backward thinking and recalcitrant attitudes do not accurately reflect the overwhelming support the majority of the people of Gibraltar today express on this matter. In 2007, Gibraltarians understand less and less why it is that prejudice and inequality in this area of social legislation should continue in our country,” Mr Alvarez added.

“Just one small proof of this particular pudding and of the growing support being received on this matter is the growing heterosexual support being received on Gibraltar-based internet pro-gay rights forums which have spontaneously established themselves."

“As Chairman of GGR I will not cry victory until change has actually been introduced. Today’s news, however, is without doubt a welcome breakthrough,” he added.

Taking the opportunity for the establishment of good relations with Government, Alvarez went on to say that “ Whilst this news may perhaps be a bitter pill for Mr Caruana to take, I once more stretch the hand of real and sincere dialogue with a real and sincere agenda for change on both sides in the hope that, on this occasion, and in contrast to the last time such dialogue was announced a few years back, a real commitment for effective and practical dialogue might be possible.

"If constructive attitudes on both sides are allowed to exist, I see no reason why bad feeling should continue to be the order of the day between GGR and Government,” Mr Alvarez ended.

16 OCTOBER 2007

"Cashman takes actions to tackle Gibraltarian discriminatory age of consent"

Michael Cashman, MEP for West Midlands, recently elected MEP of the Year for Fundamental Rights and Justice, met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier today and raised the issue of the unequal age of consent still in place in Gibraltar . Indeed, the age of consent for heterosexual sexual relations is 16 whilst the age of consent for same-sex sexual relations is 18.
The unequal age of consent violates existing European conventions and human rights norms which consider unequal age of consent to be discrimination on the basis of sexual orientations.
"The issue had been raised by Gibraltar gay rights organisations in the past," Michael Cashman explained, "The Gibraltarian government has been given plenty of time to rectify the situation. It is unfortunate that this matter had to come to us for any action to be undertaken."

In his meeting with the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Michael highlighted the incompatibility of the law with existing human rights norms, "Gordon Brown immediately agreed wholeheartedly with my point of view on the matter," Michael stated, "The Prime Minister has agreed to take this matter up to ensure that steps are taken to end this discriminatory practice, the existence of which, is incompatible with our obligations as an EU member and as a party under the European Convention of Human Rights."

Michael applauded gay rights organisations working in Gibraltar , "It was their continued vigilance which allows us to take notice of this situation. I now hope that we sort this mess out and get rid of this discrimination built into the laws of Gibraltar ."