Judge rules Hong Kong gay sex laws unconstitutional

[JURIST] Hong Kong High Court Judge Michael Hartmann ruled [decision text, in English] Wednesday that laws prohibiting gay sex are unconstitutional and discriminatory and violate Hong Kong's Basic Law [text and background] and the Bill of Rights [text]. Under existing law in the former British colony, now a Special Administrative Region [HK government website] of the People's Republic of China, men under 21 who engage in sodomy can be given a life sentence, while heterosexual and lesbian relationships are legal after the age of 16. Hartmann said the laws "discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. (They) are demeaning of gay men who are, through the legislation, stereotyped as deviant." Gay activists welcomed the decision, saying that this is the first time a Hong Kong court has held that sexual orientation is a protected ground against discrimination. Hong Kong government officials have said that they will study Wednesday's decision. Though homosexuality has never been officially banned in China [BBC backgrounder], in the past gays were persecuted under "hooliganism" laws and until 2001, homosexuality was considered a mental illness. In Hong Kong, homosexual behavior was illegal until 1991 [Wikipedia backgrounder] and several attempts to introduce anti-discrimination legislation in the 1990s failed. AP has more.



 

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