Dominica court to hear constitutional challenge of anti-gay laws

September 28, 2022

ROSEAU, Dominica, Sept 28, CMC – The Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom) and the HIV Legal Network say they remain hopeful that the High Court here will follow Antigua and Barbuda and St. kits-Nevis of Justice in repealing laws that criminalize LGBT people in the Caribbean.

The High Court will on Wednesday begin hearing a constitutional challenge from a gay man who is seeking to have two sections of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) that criminalize consensual same-sex activities ruled unconstitutional.

The case to end the criminalisation of LGBT people in Dominica is supported by MiRiDom and the HIV Legal Network, working alongside the claimant whom they say “cannot be named because of risk to his safety.

The groups argue that under sections 14 and 16 of the SOA, sexual activity between consenting partners of the same sex is prohibited, offences that were first enacted in 1873, when Dominica was under British colonial rule.

“The case being heard today was launched by a man who has faced discrimination, hostility, and horrific violence in Dominica because he is gay,” they said in a statement, adding that Dominica’s 1978 Constitution guarantees the rights to privacy, protection from discrimination, liberty, security of the person, freedom from inhuman or degrading punishment, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association.

The statement quoted the claimant as saying that he has “endured discrimination, threats, harassment, and violence because of my sexual orientation.

“The perpetrators of such acts find a sense of comfort and safety in the laws that criminalize buggery and gross indecency. These laws are not only discriminatory themselves, but they incite and encourage hateful and violent conduct towards LGBT individuals. The laws also condone police inaction and discrimination and are harmful to public health by worsening the HIV epidemic.” These laws must be repealed.”

The MiRiDom) and the HIV Legal Network say the continued criminalisation of consensual sex by LGBT people through sections 14 and 16 of the SOA, and the broader abuses against LGBT Dominicans to which such criminalisation contributes, has damaged too many lives.

“These are the lives not only of LGBT Dominicans but also of their family members and friends who have lost loved ones to homophobic violence, or when those facing persecution have been forced to seek asylum elsewhere.

“In the words of the claimant who brought forward this challenge, “I hope to make a change that will allow the generations after me to live a better life as a gay person than what I have experienced.” We hope the court will see fit to make this critical change in support of human rights for all,” the groups said.

Earlier this month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in welcoming the ruling of the High Court in St. Kitts-Nevis that found that the sections of the colonial-era Offences Against the Person Act violate the country’s Constitution. noted the transformative impact of judicial decision-making in the Caribbean, which has allowed for increased protection of the human rights of LGBTI persons in that region, which is in line with Inter-American standards.

“The Commission celebrates the work of civil society and human rights activists in the Caribbean who are challenging laws and policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their efforts have enabled the creation of legislation, judgements, and policies that respect the human rights of LGBTI persons.”

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