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Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian barrister-at-law and solicitor.
Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian barrister-at-law and solicitor.
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By *Jeshua Bardoo

Today, we live in a world of diversity. Human beings have a range of different characteristics, backgrounds, and beliefs. We may not always understand or agree with many of these differences, but the fact is, they exist. Difference should not be something we hate or criminalise but rather to seek to understand and where possible, embrace and accept.

Differences also exist in the areas of human sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics. The Yogyakarta Principles state that, sexual orientation “is understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender”, and gender identity “is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms”.

Concerning gender expression and sex characteristics, the Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10 states that, gender expression “is each person’s presentation of the person’s gender through physical appearance – including dress, hairstyles, accessories, cosmetics – and mannerisms, speech, behavioural patterns, names and personal references, and noting further that gender expression may or may not conform to a person’s gender identity”, and Sex Characteristics are understood as “each person’s physical features relating to sex, including genitalia and other sexual and reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, hormones, and secondary physical features emerging from puberty”.

Over the years, issues concerning the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other groups of people who belong to a sexual and gender minority that defies “traditional heteronormative or cis-normative values or norms”, have been hot topics in Vincentian society. This has now been heightened due to the recent decision of the High Court to not only dismiss cases challenging anti-LGBTQ+ laws in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) but to apparently, also justify them based on public health and public morality grounds. Grounds that have long been debunked internationally and regionally.

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Arguments often used by those who oppose the rights of sexual and gender minorities that defy “traditional norms and values”, include that these “values” are not Vincentian, and/or that they are somehow “foreign”.

SVG is a constitutional democracy (not a theocracy) with a constitution that recognises differences amongst humanity and protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons in SVG, with rights such as freedom of conscience (which is far more expansive than any one religion such as Christianity), freedom of expression (which can be interpreted to include acts of gender expression or sexual expression), and protection from discrimination (which can be interpreted to include grounds such as sexual orientation), etc., yet some persons seek to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other groups of people whose sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, and/or sex characteristics defy social expectations, their rights and freedoms.

Some persons also support discriminatory laws such as the “buggery” and “gross indecency” provisions under SVG’s Criminal Code that amongst other things, criminalize private consensual same-sex relations or conduct (hereinunder referred to as the “Buggery Laws”).

However, it can be argued that the Buggery ¬aws which perpetuate and give social and legal sanction to homophobia in Vincentian society, are a legacy of British colonialism. The origins of British Buggery Laws date back centuries and evolved over time through laws such as the Buggery Act, 1553, the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, and the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1885, etc.

While the British Parliament decriminalised private consensual same-sex relations amongst adults in 1967, have made significant progress in advancing LGBTQ+ rights, and now condemns anti-LGBTQ+ laws, SVG and many other Caribbean countries that were once colonized by the British empire, are still reeling and grappling with the negative impacts of the legacy of British colonialism.

Before the British settled in SVG, there were no laws criminalising private consensual same-sex relations between adults. These laws were “imported” or “transplanted” to SVG by the British. Therefore, those that argue that the Buggery Laws should be kept because they are somehow Vincentian, these laws were never Vincentian to begin with in the first place. As with many ideas and institutions under colonialism, they were “forced” unto the people. Buggery Laws are therefore originally foreign to Vincentian society. Now, since after independence they still remain on the books, the State by its retention of these laws, has seemingly accepted the “foreign” as its own. These laws continue to exist in SVG because of state-sanctioned homophobia. No society that was shaped in slavery and discrimination should ever seek to unjustifiably uphold or promulgate the legal oppression and social discrimination of others.

Moreover, it is recognised that apart from just colonial laws, other factors have contributed to the homophobia existing amongst some persons in Vincentian society. Another factor is the influence of religion. Religious beliefs are often used to justify homophobia, and even the continued retention of the Buggery Laws. This was put on full display in the cases challenging the Buggery laws in SVG, in which churches were allowed to join as interested parties and supported the retention of the Buggery Laws. Ironically, many of these same religious beliefs also did not originate from SVG. For example, the religion of Christianity was brought by many British or European settlers to SVG. At the time of European colonisation, it was not originally the religion of the indigenous people (many of whom were persecuted and murdered), living on SVG’s islands and/or cays.

However, you know what isn’t foreign? Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other groups of people of different sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, and/or sex characteristics that were born and/or grew up right here in SVG. Yes, though some may try to pretend otherwise, they exist, and currently they exist under the shadow of discriminatory Buggery laws. Buggery Laws with up to ten years imprisonment now confirmed to be valid by the High Court.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its 2015 “Violence Against LGBTI Persons in the Americas” report, buggery laws “provide a social sanction for abuse, breed intolerance, and have been used to justify arbitrary detention, police abuse, and extortion and torture”.

Human Rights Watch in its ground-breaking 2023 report “They Can Harass Us Because of the Laws” Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines”, elaborated that under the shadow of discriminatory laws, sexual and gender minorities in SVG face physical and verbal assaults, family violence, homelessness, workplace harassment, bullying, and sexual violence. This report also revealed that those responsible for this mistreatment include people close to LGBT people — family members, neighbours, co-workers, classmates, and teachers — as well as strangers and disappointingly, even police officers. Amongst other things, Human Rights Watch recommended that the legislature repeal the country’s colonial-era laws that criminalise consensual same-sex conduct and pass comprehensive civil legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The legislature is yet to do any of the aforementioned and the High Court’s shocking decision breaks recent trends in the region and the eastern Caribbean.

No person’s culture, tradition, religion, or values should ever be used to justify the criminalisation and oppression of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons, and other groups of people whose sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, and/or sex characteristics defy social norms. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Right’s 2015 “Violence Against LGBTI Persons in the Americas” report, “the Inter-American Court on Human Rights has indicated that while it is true that certain societies might be intolerant with respect to a person’s sexual orientation (or, for that matter, a person’s race or nationality), States cannot use this as justification to perpetuate discriminatory treatments. On the contrary, States must confront intolerant and discriminatory expressions in order to prevent exclusion”.

Today, I encourage the state, the government, and the people of SVG to take a stand against buggery laws and positive action to respect and protect the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other groups of people belonging to different gender and sexual minorities, who are not foreign but were born and/or grew up right here in SVG. And even if they may leave for some time, they are still Vincentians, who can at any time return to SVG. Yes, they exist and deserve protection from people who wish to exclude, harm, and/or abuse them in SVG.

*Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian lawyer with an LLM in international human rights law. He is also the Founder and President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He can be contacted via email at [email protected]

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

14 replies on “Homophobia and homophobic laws: legacies of colonialism in SVG”

  1. Homosexuality used to be considered a mental illness by the psychiatric community who reached this consensus on solid scientific grounds but was forced to “repent” because of political pressure from militant gay activists.

    Transgenderism is a far more unhealthy affliction that is now gaining moral and even scientific legitimacy on the back of the gay liberation movement even though many gay people hypocritically find transgenderism to be a deviant phenomenon.

    An anything goes world where black is called white and wrong is called right is truly a mentally deranged one.

  2. It is false to say that anti-buggery attitudes are colonial imports because our African ancestors had the same aversion to homosexuality long before there were any Black people in SVG, why buggery is still widely condemned all across the African continent.

  3. Some criminals have some dangerous criminal background u might soon tempted to persuade me to accept and embrace that too.

    My only encouragement is that u will change your mindset and repent in light of God’s Holy scriptures before that great and notable day is upon us.

    For how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation.

    You know that CHRIST love you and their is nothing you can do about it.

    The problem is we don’t love Him and that’s frightening.

  4. The time and effort you keep putting into this battyman agenda would be better spent advocating for more laws to protect the extremely vulnerable among us… the children, the elderly, the physically and mentally challenged, the destitute……. the list is long.

  5. nancysauldemers says:

    What kind of a society is it in which individuals cannot simply treat one another with kindness and respect? What kind of a religion is it that would encourage believers to hate, discriminate against, fear or criminalize others simply because they are different in some way? Why can’t we see our way clear to allowing each other, as responsible adults, to express love with other consenting adults in any way we choose. If we don’t want others telling us what we can or cannot do in the privacy of our own homes, why should we feel we should tell others what they can or cannot do in the privacy of their own homes? As Jeshua Bardoo so eloquently stated: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other groups of people belonging to different gender and sexual minorities certainly exist in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They always have and they always will. Criminalizing them will not change them or make them disappear. So what, then, is the purpose of the discriminatory laws?

  6. Jeshua Bardo you again with your nonsense. I feel like spitting on you, leave us alone it’s you vs the rest of us.

  7. Mr Holder of an LLM your time will be better spent on advocating the rights of ordinary citizens rather than this homosexual thing. Vincentians have their own independent views on the subject matter and nothing is going to change that. Whether they were born in vincy or not they are strangers. They do not live in our jurisdiction and have no standing as correctly pointed out by Justice Henry. They should be encouraged to come home and stone us. Don’t throw pebbles from afar. Why don’t you Jesua challenge the rest of us in courts? See what will happen. I suggest that you start with Jesua Bardo v The Attorney General.

  8. Jeshua Buoy you cute them bouy such as Castie would take a liking for your cuteness other may like the fact that you hold an LLM in human rights Law. Bouy you have brains that is nah touch yet.

  9. I guess if we now follow the “colonialists” and take those laws off the “books” we would not be a “misguided” people just following the “massa” blindly

  10. I refused to even fully read this nonsense of yours. If we are homophobic and our laws against the abomination is from Colonial days, I suggest you go to that place where our colonialists originate because you will be more accepted there. You will be more comfortable there. That thing is more tolerable there. Go to Brighton. Why are you so bent on this nastiness? You know better. Read Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1: 26-29; Genesis 19. This is the word of God. It is He with whom the “homophobic” laws originate. This thing is not shrouded in mystery. Demonic possession does not always manifest in dramatic phenomena. Just pray that the Lord God liberates you. You will be absolutely free. God help you.

  11. Nancysauldemers, I agree that religion should not encourage hatred and discrimination. What religion should encourage is obedience to God. What He requires is found in the bible. If people choose to obey God there will be no need to have this discussion because there will not be any of these people who are on the journey to eternal damnation. God hates the sin in us but He loves us and He is merciful towards us but mercy will expire because He will not allow sin and sinners to perpetuate. Homosexuality is not only sin it is abominable in God’s eyes. Obey God. Champion His cause. Not the devil’s. That’s what you and Mr. Bardoo are doing.

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