A court of Appeal has deemed the higher age of sexual consent for homosexuals in Hong Kong unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Hong Kong law states that homosexuals must be 21 before consenting to sex, whilst the age for heterosexuals is five years lower at 16.

Gay men who risk having sex before 21 face potential life imprisonment.

The three judges at the Court of Appeal unanimously agreed that laws allowing a higher age of consent for homosexuals than for heterosexuals and lesbians were discriminatory and unconstitutional. Chief High Court Judge Geoffrey Ma said “I fail to see on any basis the justification of this age limit,” reports Agence France Presse (AFP) .

The case had been brought to the Court of Appeal by the government in protest to an original landmark ruling that allowed homosexual sex under the age of 21. This original case was brought against the government by 21 year old homosexual Billy Leung, who was absent from the Court of Appeal verdict. Leungs lawyer Michael Vidler said ”It’s good news for equal rights in Hong Kong,”

Hong Kong decriminalised homosexuality in 1991 and the government has been widely criticised for appealing against the original ruling.