The Caribbean Observatory on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights applauds the decision made by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court to uphold the Sexual rights of the LGBTQ+ community in Antigua and Barbuda.
On July 5th 2022, The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the High Court of Justice ruled that Section 12 and Section 15 of the Sexual Offences act 1995 were unconstitutional as they contravene sections 3, 12 and 14 of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda. Section 12 and 15 were inconsistent with the rights of consenting adults to engage in same-sex intimacy and offends the guaranteed rights to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex.
This ruling is an important step in the removal of discriminatory legislation rooted in colonial ideas that continue to marginalize and create a hostile environment for Caribbean people based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. This move further strengthens the resolve of Caribbean people to advance human rights for all ,ensuring the protection of LGBTQ+ persons, and promoting inclusive Caribbean societies that we can be proud of.
Senator Aziza Lake of Antigua and Barbuda, welcomed the news, “I wholeheartedly agree with the recent ruling in the High Court of Antigua & Barbuda that essentially struck out certain buggery provisions in the Sexual Offences Act 1995. I have long advocated for the removal of provisions that criminalized anal sex in Antigua & Barbuda amongst consenting adults…
I look forward to more decisions from our judiciary that address equal rights, legislation and the constitution. Yesterday’s ruling exemplifies how the different arms of our government have a role to play in upholding the rights of citizens.”
Discrimination of LGBTQ+ people is structurally grounded in the legislation of a majority of Caribbean countries, and is a testament to the colonial legacies that continue to limit societal progress.
“The Government of the Bahamas repealed the buggery law in the previous century. With the significant exceptions of Jamaica and Guyana in CARICOM, where the matter hasn’t already been decided by a
domestic court, a case is currently underway, in Barbados and the 5 other independent islands of the OECS.
Caribbean courts have spoken unequivocally. Governments are elected to lead, and they must! Stop wasting time and money. Repeal the buggery law and expand anti-discrimination protections so all Caribbean peoples can live freely and fully enjoy this beautiful region.” – Joel Simpson, Managing Director of SASOD Guyana and Steering Committee Member of the Caribbean Forum for Liberation of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS).
At present, laws that criminalize consensual same sex relations exist in Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This has devastating impact for LGBTQ+ persons, not only in seeking justice and care in the face of gender-based violence, but also perpetuating “negative and misleading perceptions of LGBTQ+ people as disordered and even criminal, gives the green light for harassment, violence, discrimination and conversion practices.” (US DoS, 2020).
LGBTQ+ people continue to face numerous challenges daily, in accessing health care, housing and access to basic necessities and the right to a life free of violence – at home, school, at work and in public spaces. This also increases the burden in society, increasing poverty, unemployment, homelessness, isolation and depression. LGBTQ+ adolescents and youth also face verbal, physical, sexual and cyber bullying at higher rates in secondary school.
Denying human rights to LGBTQ+ persons is a contravention of ratified human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Caribbean countries such as The Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago same-sex intimacy is decriminalized . Suriname has had no laws against same-sex sexual activity since 1869. Currently, cases have been launched by civil society and individuals in St. Vincent & Grenadines, Jamaica, Barbados and Dominica (Carrillo, 2021: 5).
The Caribbean SRHR Observatory in collaboration with the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA) urge Caribbean Governments to repeal discriminatory laws that continue to marginalize and infringe upon the Human Rights of the LGBTQ+ community and to firmly adopt and promote a culture of inclusion and respect for all people.