Austria: Anti-Gay Laws Repealed

On December 12, 1996, the Upper Chamber of the Austrian Parliament passed a bill which included the full repeal of anti-gay Articles 220 & 221 of the Penal Code. As expected, this vote corroborates the November 27, 1996 Lower Chamber decision, and the reform comes into effect on March 1, 1997. This is a significant, albeit partial victory, for the Austrian Lesbian & Gay movement, which has struggled for this reform for the past 17 years.

Article 200 criminalized the production or distribution of materials presenting homosexuality in a positive light with a penalty of up to six months imprisonment, while Article 221 prohibited with a similar penalty, the existence of groups whose mandate included the promotion of homosexuality. Article 209, however - which imposes an unequal age of consent of 18 for gay men versus 14 for lesbians and heterosexuals - remains on the books.

The left wing Social Democrats, Greens, and Liberal Forum had proposed the full repeal of all three articles in the Lower Chamber, but unfortunately do not constitute a Parliamentary majority.

The Austrian lesbian and gay movement extends their thanks to all who supported their international campaign which began last April. We thank you as well for participating in the IGLHRC letter writing campaign. We shall update you on developments in the struggle against Article 209.