PM pledges action on Gibraltar age of consent

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The Prime Minister has committed himself to ending the unequal age of consent in the British self-governing territory of Gibraltar.

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

LGBT people in the territory have little legal protection from discrimination. Up until 1992, all male homosexual relationships were illegal.

At present male homosexual sex is legal at 18, rather than 16 for heterosexual and lesbian sex.

Gibraltar is a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom, and the British government in London has no control over social policy.

“Gordon Brown immediately agreed wholeheartedly with my point of view on the matter,” Mr Cashman said after their meeting.

“The Prime Minister has agreed to take this matter up to ensure that steps are taken to end this discriminatory practice, the existence of which is incompatible with our obligations as an EU member and as a party under the European Convention of Human Rights.”

Mr Cashman praised gay rights organisations working in Gibraltar.

“It was their continued vigilance which allows us to take notice of this situation,” he said.

“I now hope that we sort this mess out and get rid of this discrimination built into the laws of Gibraltar.”

The territory’s Equality Rights Group GGR welcomed the Prime Minister’s strong stance.

“This is an opportune moment for Government (of Gibraltar) and GGR to sit round the table and start a process of real dialogue towards progress for Gibraltar’s gay community. It is a good moment also for the new Justice Minister to play a role in reconciliation,” said Felix Elvarez, the chairman of GGR.

“In a recent press release, we predicted that the unacceptable situation of same-sex partners in Gibraltar would lead to intervention similar to that of 1993, when the British Government had to enforce European Convention provisions on the Rock as a result of moral and legal failure on the part of our own authorities.

“It is a shame for Gibraltar that, despite all the spin we hear from those in power, human rights progress comes only as a result of external pressure and obligations.

“But it is a particular shame because such backward thinking and recalcitrant attitudes do not accurately reflect the overwhelming support the majority of the people of Gibraltar today express on this matter.

“In 2007, Gibraltarians understand less and less why it is that prejudice and inequality in this area of social legislation should continue in our country,” Mr Alvarez added.

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 their territory.

It was seized by Britain in 1704, and its strategic position at the juncture of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean meant that the UK has retained the territory.