Human Rights body welcomes Caribbean court decision to decriminalise same-sex intimacy

EORGETOWN, Guyana – The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, SASOD,Guyana, has welcomed the decision of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court following the conclusion of a challenge brought by a gay man against the state, who argued that the Sexual Offences Act (of 1995) contained several unconstitutional and discriminatory sections.

According to the Court’s ruling, sections 12 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act which prohibited several acts of same-sex intimacy were deemed by the Court to be unconstitutional and discriminatory.

In a statement, SASOD Guyana said it “emphatically celebrates with the people of Antigua and Barbuda, civil society and other partners who contributed to the success of the legal challenge.

Celebrating the victory, Co-Chair of the Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS) Lucien Govaard, stated – “we reiterate that it is time governments in the region let go of these colonial structures as they have no place in a modern, diverse, and developing Caribbean.”

The leader of the regional LGBTIQ+ network went on the urge regional leaders to “tackle these issues as a united region, one Caribbean, where all our peoples can live without fear, discrimination, harassment, or violence.”

Similarly, the Caribbean Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Observatory and the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA) are urging Caribbean Governments to repeal discriminatory laws that continue to marginalize and infringe upon the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people and to firmly adopt and promote a culture of inclusion and respect for all people.

The Court’s decision in Antigua and Barbuda follows rulings in Belize (2016) and in Trinidad and Tobago (2018) where similar legal provisions were struck down.

There are currently ongoing constitutional challenges of the same nature in St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and Barbados, where final rulings are expected to be handed down by the end of the year.

SASOD Guyana sai there are now fewer Caribbean nations where archaic laws remain on the books.

“We have been lobbying and working with the Government of Guyana for over 19 years to remove these discriminatory and dangerous laws here in Guyana. We remain among a rapidly decreasing number of Caribbean nations that continue to allow these colonial remnants to endanger the lives of LGBTIQ+ people, in spite of the human rights implications,” said Joel Simpson, Managing Director of SASOD Guyana.

“We hope that the Guyana government can see that this issue is now practically settled law. These provisions are discriminatory and unconstitutional, and they must go! We hope the government is encouraged to table legislation in the National Assembly to repeal similar provisions which criminalize same-sex intimacy in our law books,” he said.