The High Court of Antigua and Barbuda has ruled colonial discriminatory laws against the LGBTQI+ community unconstitutional.
Sections 12 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act of 1995 were inherited from British colonial rule, and criminalised consensual homosexual acts.
Those found guilty could face up to 15 years in prison.
The court found on 5 July that criminalising intimate relationships between consenting adults was in contravention of the Antiguan constitutional rights to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex – which the court found includes sexual orientation.
The court stated that “the right to privacy extends beyond the right to be left alone, and includes the concept of dignity of the individual, aspects of physical and social identity and the right to develop and establish relationships with other human beings”.
The ruling came after a case filed by David Orden, a gay Antiguan man, along with local organisation, Women Against Rape, and the regional LGBTQI+ umbrella organisation, the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE).
Orden stated in court that he had been bullied, beaten, and harassed because of his sexuality, but that the police refused to investigate.
“The process of litigation is important, as it underscores how these laws contribute to the stigmatisation of LGBTQI+ people, how they legitimise hate speech, discrimination and violence and tears at the fabric of our society,” said Executive Director of ECADE, Kenita Placide, celebrating the ruling
“Our governments have sworn to protect and uphold the rights of all and act in a manner that promotes the prosperity and well-being of all. This judgment is in keeping with this commitment.”
Antigua and Barbuda is now the third country in the Caribbean to decriminalise homosexuality through the courts. Constitutional challenges are pending in Barbados, St Lucia, and St Kitts and Nevis.
Earlier last month, the Government of Ghana sent a delegation to London to hold talks on the highly debated anti-LGBTQI+ bill, as rights activists launched a campaign to mark Pride month.