The UK is to tell Gibraltar its unequal age of consent for gay and straight people breaches international law.

The territory currently allows lesbians and heterosexuals to have sex at 16, but the age of consent for gay men is 18. Anal sex is illegal between men and women.

According to the Gibraltar Chronicle, David Lidington, Minister of State for Europe and NATO at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, said the British government would make an intervention over the issue.

In a written response to a parliamentary question in the House of Commons, he explained: “The UK intervention will set out the international legal arguments that the distinction in the age of consent – and other discriminatory provisions relating to sexual offences – are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The British government takes seriously its obligations under the ECHR which also extend to the overseas territories.”

“We are committed to working with overseas territories governments to ensure we meet these obligations.”

The Gibraltar government has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the difference breaches the constitutional rights of gay men.

Britain could amend the territory’s laws for it if the territory does not take the step itself.

The Gibraltar government’s arguments against lowering the age of consent for gay men were published in February.

It argues that the matter can be justified on health and religious grounds.

Documents said: “Religious faith plays an important role in our community and is also an important part of its social cohesion which would be undermined.”

On health, they added: “widening the range of sexual practices which can be committed with young people puts even more pressure on them to be sexually active and there is no doubt that anal sex carries greater health risks than heterosexual intercourse.”

The government also argues that it is heterosexuals being discriminated against, rather than gay men, as straight couples are completely banned from having anal sex.