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Oct 21, 2007 News: Gibraltar Govt Lacks Consensual Good Faith
By vanrozenheim

(Gibraltar) - Gibraltar's Gay and human rights organisation Equality Rights Group GGR stated today: "Following last week's announcement by Michael Cashman MEP, the Gibraltar Government's recent statement following Downing Street's agreement to intervene on the age of consent issue in Gibraltar is a sad case of psychological denial and desperate face-saving." It was reacting to a press statement by the Rock's Government repudiating a report published by the group last week regarding announcements that Gordon Brown had determined to take action on the age of consent in Gibraltar (16 for heterosexuals and 18 for Gay men).

"Given Mr Cashman's clear public statement referring to the Prime Minister's decision to step in to end the inequality in law, perhaps Government should explain which part of the words "ensure that steps are taken to end this discriminatory practice" it does not yet understand.

"This is especially so given that the Rock's Government itself acknowledges that Gordon Brown has pledged, in No 6's own words, that "he would look into the matter". Indeed, it is difficult to envisage a more direct action that could be taken by a British Prime Minister in the circumstances. However, if after 7 years of resistance and inaction on this matter, Mr Caruana now prefers to receive the applause for changing the law, we will have no problem in according to him the part that belongs to him when that happens," the statement added.

"Instead of sitting round the table to talk, No. 6 is acting with a regrettable lack of consensual good faith. This style of politics cannot be good for our community," Chairman Felix Alvarez added.

"Government are well enough advised by batteries of lawyers to know that what GGR has said in its statements last week relates to European Court case law and its effect on the obligations of signatory states. At no time has GGR spoken of age of consent being defined by Articles of the Convention which, as Government well knows, is framed broadly and interpreted in its detail by judges adjudicating on the bench of the European Court of Human Rights. This interpretation has been consistent in its condemnation of age of consent inequality in all the relevant case law since 1997. An inequality that, in fact, Mr Caruana has failed to address for the past 7 years.

"Furthermore, the statements made by GGR to the Gibraltar media reflect the press release published by MEP Michael Cashman himself who stated that "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".

Mr Alvarez closed by saying that "This is not about `we win you lose' on either side, but rather, about how we can jointly do the best for Gibraltar and all its citizens. If Mr Caruana wishes to pretend that any action now is in reality his own, then so be it. Our only interest is that this community begin to enjoy the equality and standards of rights it deserves. For the rest, people are well aware of the facts and can judge the truth for themselves. Let us look forward to change and not backward to bad feeling."

Gibraltar media, however, reported that the UK Government has advised the Gibraltar Government that, contrary to reports attributed to Gay Rights Group Chairman Felix Alvarez, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has not pledged direct action to ensure the Gibraltar Government equalises the age of consent.

According to gibfocus.gi, a Government spokesman said: “Mr Cashman MEP, President of Gay Rights asked the Prime Minister about the equalisation of the ages of consent in Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Government is advised by HMG that Mr Brown, who is unsighted on the exchanges between the two Governments on this issue, said that he would look into the matter. This is a perfectly proper response.

“Contrary to Mr Alvarez’s statement, the European Convention of Human Rights does not prohibit unequal ages of consent for heterosexual and homosexual sex. It does so only if no ‘objective and reasonable justification’ for the difference in treatment can be shown.

“The Gibraltar Government will announce its decision on this matter once it has taken a view about whether an objective and reasonable justification, valid in law, can be made. If it cannot be made, the ages of consent will be equalised in compliance with the Convention.”

It remained unclear, what „reasonable justification“ can possibly exist as justification for criminalization of consensual relationships of young Gay adults.

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