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HONGKONG - Oct 17, 2006

Hong Kong's government on Monday caved in to a challenge against its age of consent laws for gays, effectively lowering the age of consent for homosexuals from 21 to 16 to match laws regarding heterosexuals.

Under former legislation, gay men under 21 were subject to life imprisonment for having sex whereas heterosexual could start having sex five years earlier.

In a short statement, the Security Bureau said it would not seek to reverse the court's decision.

"After considering all the relevant factors, the government decided not to appeal the judicial review," it read.

The courts stated definitively that laws against sodomy infringed on the rights of privacy and equality for homosexual citizens.

“At one stage, societal values dictated that buggery was some form of unnatural act, somehow to be condemned and certainly not condoned. These values have changed in Hong Kong,” Chief Judge Geoffrey Ma said in the judgment.

“I cannot see any justification for either the age limit of 21, or, in particular, for the different treatment of male homosexuals compared with heterosexuals,” Judge Ma said.


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