Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. (“ERAO SVG”) welcomes the ruling of High Court Judge Justice Trevor M. Ward QC in the case of Jamal Jeffers et al v. The Attorney General of St. Christopher and Nevis.
His Lordship ruled that sections 56 and 57 under the Offences Against the Person Act, Cap 4.21, titled “Sodomy and bestiality” and “Attempt to commit an infamous crime” respectively, are unconstitutional. Amongst other things, in his judgment his Lordship ruled that the aforementioned provisions contravened the right to protection of personal privacy and the right to freedom of expression, and, as such are null and void and of no force and effect to the extent that they criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults.
This historic decision in the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis (“St. Kitts & Nevis”) continues to support the argument that anti-gay laws by their very nature are unconstitutional and violate the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons.
Before this decision, in the Independent Anglophone Caribbean anti-gay laws criminalising private consensual same-sex relations were successfully challenged in Antigua and Barbuda, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and Belize. In the 1990’s Bahamas’ parliament decriminalised laws prohibiting private consensual same-sex relations.
To this day, other Independent Anglophone Caribbean countries where anti-gay laws tragically still exist are Jamaica, the Commonwealth of Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (“SVG”), Barbados, Grenada, and the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. In many of these countries, anti-gay laws are currently being challenged in court.
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 congratulates the claimants, lawyers, activists, and organizations who worked tirelessly to ensure this victory for the LGBTQIA+ community in St. Kitts & Nevis. ERAO SVG believes that this progressive legal development in Jamal Jeffers et al v. The Attorney General of St. Christopher and Nevis may have a domino effect on similar legal challenges of this nature in other Independent Anglophone Caribbean countries where anti-gay laws still exist today.
ERAO SVG remains committed to promoting equality and non-discrimination in SVG. Anti-gay laws in SVG are remnants from British colonialism and violate LGBTQIA+ rights. The existence of these laws today continues to stigmatise 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.