Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

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

Thursday, June 18, 2009

No surprises in Parliament's defeat of the Age of Consent Bill

Equality Rights Group GGR Chairman Felix Alvarez has reacted to news that the Private Member’s Bill presented to the Gibraltar Parliament has been defeated as “not surprising.”

“However, the reality is quite different from what has been painted. The truth is that a clear majority of Parliament are actually in favour of equalisation. And the public must not be confused by the complicated manoeuvres which have fudged the realities. The single most important truth is that a majority of MPs are now clearly in favour of equalisation since all members of the Opposition without exception have made their support for equality clear as a block (even though they had to vote “no” to what they considered a flawed Bill), in addition to 4 members of Government. That fact is real and cannot be glossed over. Whilst GGR was already aware that Government was split not only on age of consent but on other gay equality issues, it is gratifying to find that the GSD government is progressing in its realization that Gibraltarian citizens cannot be denied progress and equality. We congratulate Government members who voted to pass the Bill, and in particular the Justice Minister for his courageous sponsorship. We congratulate the Opposition, likewise, for their principled stand and for unequivocally standing up for equality. The only regret, however, is that they were obliged to take the stand they did. ”

“This is not a defeat for age of consent equalisation. It is a defeat for Democracy and respect for our community,” added Mr Alvarez. “And it is a result of the additional fact that Government consciously called a lightning meeting of the House, in the full knowledge that a good number of Parliamentarians were absent from Gibraltar and in its procedural obstruction of a motion to make wide consultation with the public a possibility. That single truth makes the whole argument over Government’s concerns for the delicacy of the issue and the need to reflect the wider community’s concerns questionable, to say the least. We have to acknowledge that on this sensitive issue, there are two main views to this divide – those who want to increase and those who wish to maintain the 16 year level which has been in place for over 150 years. That reality about our community’s views should have been respected and reflected in consensual debate, as GGR has maintained throughout. A debate which should have formed the basis upon which well-founded decisions could have been arrived in order to effect a just and acceptable modernisation and compliance with international law requirements.”

“What cannot be done is to impose an age. What must be done is to implement equality. As a serious human rights organization, Equality Rights Group has never expected a positive outcome to this Bill given that the Chief Minister himself has repeatedly made clear from the outset that progress towards non-discrimination measures for sexual minorities will only come when he has no further option. We have previously warned that Mr Caruana is leading Gibraltar towards an international stand-off on this matter, something which does little service to our country and our people who, increasingly and majoritarily, fail to understand the sense behind this attitude. The Campaign for an equal age of consent will continue, and GGR has already put in place further steps and measures which we shall announce in due course.”