Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. (“ERAO SVG”) is pleased with the ruling of High Court Judge Justice Marissa Robertson in the case of Orden David et al v. Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda.
Amongst other things, Her Ladyship ruled that sections 12 and 15 of Antigua and Barbuda’s Sexual Offences Act 1995, titled “Buggery” and “Serious Indecency” respectively, are unconstitutional. It was 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 sixteen (16) years and older to engage in consensual sexual intercourse per anum in private, and to the extent of that inconsistency sections 12 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 1995 are void.
This is a historic decision in not only Antigua and Barbuda but the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (“ECSC”). It is the first case, in a country where the ECSC has jurisdiction, that anti-gay laws have been declared unconstitutional.
Other English-speaking Caribbean countries where the ECSC has jurisdiction and where anti-gay laws tragically still exist today are the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis, the Commonwealth of Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (“SVG”), and Grenada. Barbados and the Co-operative Republic of Guyana both have anti-gay laws but the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over these latter two countries.
Preceding Orden David et al v. Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda, countries in the English-speaking Caribbean where anti-gay laws have also been declared unconstitutional include Belize in 2016 and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 2018.
In 2019, a legal challenge was filed in SVG by Vincentians Javin Johnson and Sean MacLeish challenging sections 146 and 148 under SVG’s Criminal Code, titled “Buggery” and “Indecent practices between persons of the same sex” respectively. However, to date, the High Court in SVG has yet to make a ruling in that matter.
ERAO SVG believes that this progressive legal development in Orden David et al v. Attorney General of 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.
ERAO SVG 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.