A rights group in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has welcomed the court decision in Antigua that ruled that laws that prohibit sexual activity among people of the same sex are unconstitutional.
Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. (ERAO SVG) said it is pleased with the court’s decision, which, among other things, ruled that sections 12 and 15 of Antigua and Barbuda’s Sexual Offences Act 1995, titled “Buggery” and “Serious Indecency”, respectively, are unconstitutional.
“ERAO SVG believes that this progressive legal development in … Antigua and Barbuda may have a domino effect on similar legal challenges of this nature in other English-speaking Caribbean countries where anti-gay laws still exist,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday.
In 2019, two gay men filed a similar challenge against laws in SVG, but the High Court is yet to rule on the matter.
In St. John’s, the court ruled that these laws violate the right to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy, and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex, in so far as they are inconsistent with the rights of persons 16 years and older to engage in consensual sexual intercourse in private.
The court held that those sections of the law are void, to the extent of that inconsistency.
“This is a historic decision in not only Antigua and Barbuda but the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC),” ERAO SVG said in a statement on Wednesday.
The group noted that it is the first case in a country where the ECSC has jurisdiction that anti-gay laws have been declared unconstitutional.
Similar laws exist in St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and Grenada.
Barbados and Guyana, which are non-ECSC jurisdictions, have similar laws.
Before the ruling in Antigua and Barbuda, Courts in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago declared similar laws unconstitutional in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
ERAO SVG said it “remains committed to promoting equality and non-discrimination in SVG.
“Anti-gay laws in SVG originate from its dark colonial legacy and violate many LGBTQIA+ rights. The existence of these laws today continues to stigmatize LGBTQIA+ individuals in SVG, many of whom only want to live their lives in peace with dignity and respect, free from discrimination, harassment, and violence.”