Last edited: January 04, 2005

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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