EC Supreme Court rules anti-buggery law unconstitutional

ST JOHN’S – The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) welcomed a court ruling by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) that the Antigua & Barbuda anti-buggery law is unconstitutional.

The ECSC ruled on Tuesday that sections of the Sexual Offences Act contravene the constitutional rights of citizens.

The ruling came after an openly homosexual man and the Women Against Rape group argued that it offended their constitutional rights.

“ECADE recognises all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people in Antigua & Barbuda, whose lives, livelihoods and happiness are no longer compromised by these outdated laws,” ECADE executive director, Kenita Placide said.

“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 tear at the fabric of our society.

“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.”

Executive Director of Women Against Rape, Alexandrina Wong said while the “journey was long and challenging… we made it working together”.

“May we continue to challenge and overcome the harmful beliefs and practices that hinder the full rights, dignity, and freedom of people everywhere,” she said.

“This will open up new avenues for the people of Antigua & Barbuda to work together toward greater equality, as we are not for the first time talking about LGBTQ+ people as criminals.”

Attorney Andrew O’Kola, who was led by the Trinidad-based Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes represented the claimants, said: “This victory is a step closer to achieving an end to discrimination against persons whose sexual preferences in the privacy of their home may differ from others.

“The law is no longer seeking to police or legislate against what people do in their homes. Each consenting adult has a right to love and express love in the manner they choose, without the state’s intrusion.”

O’Kola told the Antigua Observer newspaper: “This monumental decision gives those oppressed by archaic sexual offences provisions hope that they too can benefit from their fundamental rights as secured by a living constitution as interpreted by the court of law.

“Antigua & Barbuda now leads the Eastern Caribbean as having recognised the illegality of punishing a person for who they love. Consensual love should never be a crime.”

In the ruling, Justice Marissa Robertson noted that Sections 12 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act of 1995 contravene Sections 3, 12, and 17 of the Antigua & Barbuda Constitution, which speaks to an individual’s right to liberty, protection of law, freedom of expression, and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex.

The Court also ruled that both Sections 12 and 15 were “inconsistent with the rights of persons 16 years and older to engage in consensual sexual intercourse” in private.

The ECSC also ordered that the section of the Sexual Offences Act singling out intercourse must be between “a male person and a female person” be deleted and replaced with the word “persons” in keeping with the rights specified in the Constitution.

At present, the law stipulates that an individual who commits buggery (sexual intercourse by a male with a male or by a male with a female) is guilty of an offence and was liable on conviction to imprisonment – (a) for life, if committed by an adult on a minor; (b) for 15 years, if committed by an adult on another adult; (c) for five years, if committed by a minor.

Section 15, which punishes an individual for sexual indecency, excludes charges against (a) a husband and his wife; or (b) a male and a female each of whom is 16 years of age or more.


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