Europe questions UK about gay rights in Gibraltar

PinkNews Staff Writer May 1, 2008
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The British government has told the Council of Europe that it takes “very seriously” Gibraltar’s compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The self-governing British overseas territory, which shares a land border with Spain, still has a higher age of consent for gay sex, which breaches the convention’s discrimination articles.

Gibraltar also retains criminal offences such as buggery and gross indecency, which exclusively criminalise gay men.

In October 2007 the Prime Minister committed himself to ending the unequal age of consent in the self-governing territory.

MEP Michael Cashman met with Gordon Brown and raised the issue with him.

The Committee of Ministers is the highest level of the Council of Europe, which is responsible for overseeing human rights as laid out in the Convention.

Last week, in response to a question from Mike Hancock, Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, the committee said:

“The Committee of Ministers was informed by the United Kingdom that the legislation at issue is currently under review by the Government of Gibraltar.

“The United Kingdom reaffirmed its commitment on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, and indicated that the Government of Gibraltar is aware of the importance of compliance with the Convention, notably the principle of non-discrimination.

“The Committee of Ministers welcomes the assurance that the United Kingdom takes very seriously its full international responsibility for Gibraltar, and therefore its responsibility for Gibraltar’s compliance with the Convention, and encourages the United Kingdom to resolve this matter in the near future.

“The Committee will keep the Parliamentary Assembly informed of developments on this matter.”

Felix Alvarez, Gibraltar Gay Rights (GGR) chairman, said that Gibraltar’s failure to respect human rights standards is the United Kingdom’s responsibility.

Mr Hancock told Portsmouth Today earlier this year: “Gibraltar is still part of our dominion and they should be covered by the same rules and regulations.

“The Prime Minister has a duty to put this point to Gibraltar’s chief minister.”

GGR was established in 2000 by Mr Alvarez, and in a community of 27,000 people where politics is dominated by the issue of sovereignty, they are openly campaigning for rights equal to those enjoyed by gay people in the UK.

Mr Alvarez said there was “growing heterosexual support being received on Gibraltar-based internet pro-gay rights forums which have spontaneously established themselves.”

Spain claims that Gibraltar is its territory.

It was seized by Britain in 1704, and its strategic position at the point where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean meet meant that the UK has retained it.

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