(Castries, August 29, 2022) In a second case of historic precedent, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis (St. Kitts and Nevis) has affirmed the constitutional rights of LGBTQ+ citizens by striking down the country’s buggery law. The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) and the Saint Kitts Nevis Alliance for Equality (SKNAFE) welcome this repeal of anti-LGBTQ laws in St. Kitts and Nevis.
In declaring void sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, the High Court of Justice in St. Kitts and Nevis affirms the laws that criminalise consensual, private sexual acts between adults to be unconstitutional.
The Honourable Justice Trevor M. Ward QC held 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.
Following a similar ruling in Antigua and Barbuda delivered on the 27th June 2022, these 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. The offence of buggery continues to be in force in circumstances where the sexual acts are not consensual or involve minors.
This is the second progressive judgment in a five-country legal challenge launched by ECADE in 2020. ECADE applauds this decision on behalf of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people in St. Kitts and Nevis and across the Caribbean, whose privacy and security are no longer compromised by these outdated laws.
Executive Director of ECADE, Kenita Placide says of the ruling, “[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. Our strategy has been multilayered; working with activists on the ground, our colleagues, friends, allies and family. This win is part of the transformative journey to full recognition of LGBTQ persons across the OECS. 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.”
“This decision strongly establishes that a person’s sexuality should never be the basis for any discrimination,” says Tynetta McKoy of SKNAFE. “We welcome the recognition of this fact, one for which we have long advocated.” McKoy joined Jamal Jeffers as a claimant in this case, which was contested by the Attorney General on behalf of the Government of the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis.
ECADE remains 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.
Appearing in this case on behalf of the claimants were E. Anthony Ross QC of E. Anthony Ross Professional Services and Nadia Chiesa of WeirFoulds LLP. ECADE’s partners include a team of Caribbean lawyers and the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP). The legal team is led by Queen’s Counsel Douglas Mendes SC and Veronica S. P. Cenac, Attorney-at-Law.
Discriminatory Sexual Offences Laws and Criminal Codes in the islands date back to the British colonial era, and unfairly target LGBTQ+ people. Although custodial sentences are rarely imposed, those convicted under these laws can face imprisonment for up to ten years. Other constitutional challenges in Barbados and Saint Lucia, are expected to be concluded before the end of 2022.
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The Saint Kitts Nevis Alliance for Equality (SKNAFE) is an non-government organisation on Saint Kitts, dedicated to working with and for the LGBT community by providing a safe space through advocacy, self-empowerment, promotion of human rights and training services.
The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc, is an independent umbrella of human rights organisations operating in the small islands in the eastern Caribbean from the Virgin Islands to Grenada. The Alliance’s core membership comprises organisations representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community in the sub-region. Associate membership comprises organisations working intersectionally. ECADE currently serves twenty-seven organisations across nine countries.
Learn more at www.ecequality.org or email email@example.com.
About The Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP)
The Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) was established as a project of the Faculty of Law, The University of the West Indies (UWI) in 2009. Since 2012, there are three Faculties of Law at the Cave Hill, Mona and St Augustine campuses of UWI. U-RAP’s mission is to promote human rights and social justice in the Caribbean by undertaking and participating in strategic litigation, socio-legal research and legal education in collaboration with Caribbean lawyers and Caribbean civil society organisations and by working with students of the Faculties of Law.
About Weirfoulds LLP
WeirFoulds LLP, one of Canada’s oldest law firms, has a long-standing commitment to upholding access to justice and giving back to the community. Nadia Chiesa, Chair of the Commercial Litigation Practice Group, is called to the Bar in a number of jurisdictions in the Caribbean, and spearheads WeirFoulds pro bono human rights litigation initiative in the Caribbean which contemplates Constitutional challenges to current legislation offending fundamental rights in international law