Another victory for LGBTQ+ rights in the Caribbean


Saint Kitts and Nevis (Photo: Nesnad at English Wikipedia)

In an advance for equality in the Caribbean, the High Court of Justice in St. Kitts and Nevis has struck down the colonial-era criminalisation of homosexuality.

Justice Trevor M. Ward found that sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, known as the buggery laws, contravene the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and protection of personal privacy.

Although prison sentences are rarely imposed, those convicted under these laws can face imprisonment for up to ten years.

“The absolute nature of the prohibition created by sections 56 and 57 are not reasonably justified in a democratic society in circumstances where they proscribe sexual acts between consenting adults in private, which involve no element of public conduct or harm to, or sexual acts, with minors,” wrote Judge Ward in the decision.

Following a similar ruling in Antigua and Barbuda delivered on 27 June, the buggery laws have been declared void to the extent that they apply to persons above the age of consent who engage consensually and in private in the sexual acts described.

This is the second progressive judgment in a five-country legal challenge launched by the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) in 2020 to address anti-LGBTQ laws in Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Saint Lucia.

Constitutional challenges in Barbados and Saint Lucia, are expected to be concluded before the end of 2022.

ECADE and the Saint Kitts Nevis Alliance for Equality (SKNAFE) welcomed the repeal of the anti-LGBTQ laws in St. Kitts and Nevis.

“[Of] the seven Caribbean and 34 Commonwealth countries that criminalised same-sex intimacy, this is the second to strike down these discriminatory laws in 2022,” commented Kenita Placide, Executive Director of ECADE.

“This win is part of the transformative journey to full recognition of LGBTQ persons across the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States). It is a definitive yes to change, yes to privacy, yes to freedom of expression, and we are happy to be part of this historic moment.”

Tynetta McKoy, Executive Director of SKNAFE, added that “This decision strongly establishes that a person’s sexuality should never be the basis for any discrimination.”

The groups said they remain “committed to challenging the harmful beliefs that underpin these laws and create an atmosphere where stigma and discrimination against individuals perceived to be LGBTQ+ are acceptable.”

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