Austria Repeals Anti-Gay Consent Laws
August 15, 2002
Vienna—After years of pressure and protests, an
Austrian law equalizing the age of consent for both heterosexual and
homosexual relations has come into effect.
Article 209 of the Penal Code, which had set the age of consent for
heterosexual sex at 14, but at 18 for gay sex, was officially removed from
Austria’s law books on Wednesday.
"This is an important victory for Austrians, for Europe, and for
equality," said Scott Long, Program Director at the International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
"We congratulate Austrian activists who struggled for decades to
achieve repeal. We applaud their colleagues throughout Europe who spoke out
for simple justice."
Article 209 was used as late as 2000 in order to prosecute gay relations
that would have been legal for heterosexuals.
On July 19, 2000, a 20 year old man stood trial at the Vienna Criminal
Court. He had been charged a year earlier, when as a 19 year-old, he had sex
with his then almost 17 year-old boy-friend.
In a related case, three years earlier involving a young British man, the
European Human Rights Commission found "that no objective and reasonable
justification exists for the maintenance of a higher minimum age of consent to
male homosexual, than to heterosexual, acts" and concluded that the right
to privacy and the right to be free from discrimination had been violated.
The European Parliament had urged Austria repeatedly to repeal article
Article 209 and to pardon persons unjustly jailed under this statute. On
November 11, 1998, the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations called on
Austria to remove the discriminatory minimum age of consent.
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