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HK gay sex rules

People - 2005-08-31 - A Hong Kong judge has ruled that laws prohibiting gay sex by men under the age of 21 are unconstitutional.

The High Court judge, Michael Hartmann, said the current laws discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.

A 20-year-old gay man, William Roy Leung, had challenged Hong Kong's existing laws on the issue.

They allow sex between heterosexuals and lesbians from the age of 16, but anyone under the age of 21 who engages in sodomy could face life in prison.

The government says it will study the judgement.

Mr Hartmann said the current laws were "demeaning of gay men who are, through the legislation, stereotyped as deviant".

The laws prohibit "gross indecency" or sexual intimacy between men if one or both are younger than 21.


Gay rights activists welcomed the ruling, saying that 63 men have been arrested under the laws in the past five years.

They said that the law was now unenforceable.

"It is a landmark case and a long overdue judgement," said activist Roddy Shaw.

"It's the first time that sexual orientation has been upheld as a protected ground against discrimination in a Hong Kong court," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Hong Kong is now holding consultations on the legislation. The territory's security bureau said it was studying the ruling.


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