Sunday, 18 April 2010


OK lets talk about the real issue.  At what age should the law (not religion) permit human beings to partake of consensual SEX?  Let us leave to one side (for now) descriptions like hetero- and  homo-. 

The basic rule of many religions is that SEX outside marriage is morally reprehensible and is not permitted.  The origin of this rule is complex but, at its heart, is the belief  that sex is  for the purpose of reproduction and not for pleasure, pleasure is a side effect not the end in itself.

This principle is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in these terms "Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes".  For this reason and probably endless others, the Catholic church makes a sin of each of lust, masturbation, fornication (carnal union between an unmarried man and woman), pornography, prostitution, rape and homosexuality (which, for those who may think includes only males, includes sexual attraction and relations between both man and man and woman and woman) .

The difficulty that then arises is where should the law draw the line?  One great difference between sin and illegality (certainly in the Christian world) is that sin can be forgiven, crime is punished and rarely forgiven in many spheres of life.  Crime is punished with (at worst) imprisonment and that is rarely erased from someone's history , especially in a small society like Gibraltar.

I believe that most readers would agree that lust alone or masturbation should not be criminalised. Most people will probably agree that, subject to age limits, presently 16 years of age, fornication should not be criminalised.  Pornography laws are certainly necessary but great discretion and societal considerations are taken into account in their application and enforcement. Prostitution ... probably debatable. Rape undoubtedly should be criminalised.

Then the difficult one homosexuality. Well lets see, homosexuality between two females is not a crime, where is the Catholic church's campaign to have this sin criminalised?   Homosexuality between two males is a crime, unless it is committed in private and between two consenting adults of 18 years or more. So the law has accepted that, despite that the Catholic church considers it to be a sin, like masturbation and fornication, homosexuality between two men itself should not be a crime.

So the issue is the disparity between the ages 16 for heterosexuals and  18 for homosexuals. There may be good arguments for increasing both ages and equalising them at a higher age say 21, or equalising them at 18.  But let us take into account what actually happens in society.  Girls of under 16 are frequently getting pregnant.  Does anyone get prosecuted for this?  Rarely if at all.  Are we going to marginalise more young people in society by increasing the age of consent?  Are we going to make the job of the police and prosecuting authorities that much more (nigh on impossibly) burdensome?  Are we going to become an even more hypocritical society and turn a blind eye to under age pregnancies and only prosecute homosexuals (itself an unconstitutional application of the law)?  These and many more issues are the issues that need to be considered before enacting a law regulating age of consent.

Additionally, a question that each of us needs to ask ourself is, whether, if a close member of ones family, i.e. a son, daughter, brother or sister confessed to an illegal consensual sexual act committed in private, would any one of us pick up the telephone and report the crime to the police, thus condemning that close family member to potential imprisonment and a criminal record/history for life?  If the answer  is NO, then whoever so answers should not profess or support a law that he/she is not prepared to have upheld.

Readers may like to be reminded and to bear in mind that the age for consent to marriage in the Catholic church is 16 for males and 14 for females.  This church considers that 16 is an age at which both males and females (in their case 2 years into their maturity) are sufficiently mature to decide to marry for life, have sex and reproduce.

Religion and morality have a major role to play in society.  It has been the case for centuries that the law  has to walk a difficult path between what may be considered to be religiously and morally wrong and what is actually happening in society because an act considered sinful is tolerated generally.  There are, of course, absolutes of right and wrong.  there are wrongs that the law will never permit and so religion, morality and the law will coincide.  Where there is a divergence it is for parents and religious ministers and educators to instil values and not for the law to substitute for these.

Compassion, respect, sensitivity, understanding, tolerance and some objective thinking is called for.  After all the  Catechism of the Catholic Church has the following to say on homosexuality:

"The number of men and women who have deep-seated  homosexual tendencies is not negligible.  They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.  They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

It preaches the avoidance of sin through chastity.


  1. Dear Llanito World

    As a parent I am very concerned over this issue. How can we legalise buggery through the back door?


  2. Fred says:

    Unsurprisingly enough I find myself agreeing with you again.

    I particularly like these words: "..are we going to become an even more hypocritical society..." Would this actually be possible?

    Your point about the age for marriage in the Catholic Church reminds me of the recent case of the child bride in Yemen who bled to death. The fact is that at the heart of Catholic morality is the same obscurantism that dominates the worst rages of Islamist and other orthodoxies.

    You hit the nail on the head when you mention that what some are intending to do is to criminalise the behaviour of our youth.

    In all the debate at the moment I am yet to see any effort made to explain the health implicaions of sex at various ages and how we make this information available to people in order that they make informed choices. But, of course, that hypocritical society precludes open debate of this nature... whilst in the same breath avidly watches porn channels behind closed doors, beats up wives, etc. Not much different to other cultures dominated by patriarchal concepts of honour and shame.

    Y pa colmo: how much is Mr Caruana's constitutional battle with the FCO costing all told in pounds-shillings pence? Not just the taxpayers expenditure, but also that of all the parties.

    And let's see how much it costs us reputationally and politically for the law to tell us who does what with whom, using what, and at what age. Jesus wept.

  3. Cloti:

    As a parent i suggest that perhaps your concern should be to bring up your children to make informed decisions. As a parent you should not be giving up your parental responsibilities and duties to the state.

    I note you avoid the issue of lesbian sex, can i assume that your concern is only for your male children?

    I also ote that you avoid answering the question posed in the blog. Would you as a parent report your own son to the police if he admitted to you at the age of 16 to having committed the offence of buggery? If you would not then you are a hypocritical supporter of its criminalisation. In brief have the law to catch the sons of others but not mine.

    Think a little more deeply about the issue and the arguments raised in the blog ... then come to a conclusion on the issue.

    Always remember that no one is suggesting the legalisation of paedophilia.

  4. Fred:

    I must agree that all this money spent on pointless legal crusades could be better spent on sex education of our children. Let us give them some credit. They are not stupid. Parents consider them old enough to go to discos etcetera, so they must credit them with some worldliness. They need to be armed with knowledge to make informed choices.

    As to the battle with the FCO ... I think there is a lot more at stake politically for Mr. Caruana then he has assessed. The failure of his argument that the referendum on 2006 Constitution was an act of self determination is an insurmountable failure of a fundamental policy of the GSD, as pointed out by Robert Vasquez in his recent letters to the Chronic. They should not survive this policy disaster at the polls but there again Gibraltar and its constituents is a funny emotional place!

  5. Fred:

    Thank you LlanitoWorld. I really must get my hands on Mr Vasquez's letters.

    My dear Cloti, I do not mention lesbians because I did not think that a distinction need be made by gender or sexual orientation. I am one of those "radicals" who believes in equality, and that all citizens should be equipped to exercise their freedoms responsibly.

    Needless to say I have been influenced by German friends. And, a deep exposure to some cultures that I found aboherrent, but only made me realise that matters were not much different within my own.

    Me tengo que ir porque el espresso machine 'ta siendo ekandalo...

  6. This article is fantastic. Well done. Why can't it be published in local press

  7. It can be published in the local press if the local press will publish it!

    You will see the following at the Header of this blog:

    "Consent is given for the reproduction in any media of any blog. Attribution to is requested."

    It is up to the local FREE? press to publish it.

  8. By law children:

    Can leave school at 15

    Can leave home at 16


    So who cares if they can have sex at 16???????


    Stupidly simple!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





  10. I agree, it is stupidly simple ... it is not me that has to be convinced ... but many are not with you in your arguments. Those who are not may well want to increase the age of everything that you have mentions from 16 to 18 or even 21!

  11. We may have "clashed" (or at least had a difference of opinion) on other issues, but I have to commend you on this excellent article.

    I agree with all your points.

    Such a pity that Gibraltar is currently being governed by a leader who allows ultra-conservative personal religious convictions to guide his political responsibilites.

  12. Differences of opinion is what this blog is all about.

    Thank you for support and praise (on this occassion LOL)

  13. Honney Bee says..

    A well written, thought provoking piece with no doubt some difficult issues that need addressing ...pronto !

    Whilst I agree with anon`s descriptives I would reverse the order - more likely "Simply stupid" at least when it comes to consumption of alchol and smoking. How and why we came to the decision of setting those at 16 is beyond me, especially when there is scientific evidence which supports setting at 18.
    The debate on sex and age of consent is different and to be totally honest, is one that I have not fully made up my mind on - with regard to what age it should be set at. In an ideal world I would set it at 18 as I feel that at 16 our kids are still finding their feet and preparing themselves for adulthood. But we don`t live in an ideal world so what to do ??
    Maybe the solution might be to leave it at 16 but better prepare our youngsters with all the neccesary facts and information on health implications, contraception,etc.
    Just a thought!

  14. Having a drink or a puff of a cigarette is the same as being buggered? Somehow I don't think so. I am not a Catholic fanatic but some of the blogs here seem to have been written without a great deal of thought.

  15. Plato says:

    Llanito World, I congratulate you on another excellent blog.

    Calpetano, an excellent last paragraph. Indeed personal morals have no bearing on a duty to the electorate.

    Fred, I reiterate your 2nd paragraph.

    Honney Bee, an excellent post which summarises my position. However what ever decision is taken, it has to apply to all individuals irrespective of sexuality.

    Happy blogging to all

  16. Plato says:

    Llanito World, an excellent reply to the last anonymous. However the last anonymous may need a much simpler answer. The bloggers here are not talking about 'anal rape'. Religion has nothing to do with individual liberty to do as he/she wants. However if the last anonymous wants to bring religion into play, if there is a God who is all caring and loving etc., he must 'love' everyone the same otherwise he would not be a 'loving' God. Thus equality before God and on this earth, equality under the Law.

  17. Having a drink or a puff of a cigarette is not the same as being buggered ... sarcasm does not do this argument any good.

    You speak of "being buggered" as if it was a violent act against a male or female(who is over a certain age) against his/her wish. This will NEVER be permitted in law.

    You ignore that the debate is about CONSENSUAL acts.

    I assume that you do not mean blogs written without thought but rather comments. I beg to differ, I think thought has gone into all of them except yours, which is clearly motivated by thoughtless prejudice and an underlying anger.

  18. Anon(s?)

    All you need to do is click on 'Comment as: Name / URL' before - or even in the middle of - - posing on this forum. Just type in a name, or pseudonym if you prefer, and leave 'URL' blank.

    Preferable to use the name or pseudonym consistently.

    That way we'll know who's responding to what. Bit confusing if several contributors keep using 'Anonymous' all the time.