CVC welcomes the ruling of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) striking down the anti-buggery law in St. Kitts and Nevis.
In a ruling handed down on Monday August 29, 2022, High Court judge, Justice Trevor Ward declared Section 56 of the Offences Against the Person Act, unconstitutional. The high court judge argued that sections 56 and 57 contravenes sections 3 and 12 of the constitution which gives individuals the right to protection of personal privacy and the right to freedom of expression. In light of this, the judge ruled that sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, which criminalises buggery and indecent assault against males respectively, “is null and void and of no force and effect to the extent that it criminalises any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults”.
The motion challenging the constitutionality of sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act in St. Kitts and Nevis was brought by Jamal Jeffers as first claimant with St. Kitts and Nevis Alliance for Equality (SKNAFE) as second claimant.
In responding to the ruling, Executive Director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) Ivan Cruickshank called the ruling an important development. “This ruling from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is a welcomed development as another colonial era law from the region’s days of British rule has been struck down. Coming on the heels of a previous ruling by the court about similar laws in Antigua and Barbuda, this is another step in the right direction as we seek to reaffirm the rights of LGBTQ+ people across the Caribbean. We hope that this ruling will encourage others to challenge unconstitutional laws across the region that infringe on the human rights of all people,” Cruickshank said.
The CVC Executive Director further pointed out that the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court ruling will help to bolster advocacy efforts in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to eliminate stigma and discrimination. “These rulings which have struck down buggery laws in both countries will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst to help challenge stigma and discrimination in the OECS. Along with our partners, CVC has been doing work in the region to engage various stakeholders to not only advocate for the improvement of the human rights situation in each country for LGBTQ+ individuals, but also to challenge some of the thinking and behaviours that tend to fuel stigma and discrimination against members of key population groups. We therefore hope that these rulings will help to open up more opportunities for us to further advance the health and human rights of the LGBTQ+ community,” Cruickshank argued.
Meanwhile Executive Director of the St. Lucia-based Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc (ECADE), Kenita Placide said the judgment is a step in the right direction, but there is still more work to be done. “There is so much more that we have to do to ensure that this becomes a reality and not just in terms of the legal perspective, we have to work to change hearts and minds. When we look at this case and how it will serve the community, this is just one piece. We think that removing the legal sanctions is just one aspect, but the real work is in changing hearts and minds and for people to see things differently,” Placide noted.
The ECADE Executive Director was also quick to point out that the judgment has taken several years of work. “This is not a judgment of a fluke. This has taken seven years of mobilizing, building and creating the atmosphere that would allow us to do so without creating a heighten fear of loss of life. It will take a lot more from us in terms of ensuring that different sectors understand what this means. I do believe we have work to do and it will definitely come fast and furious, so we can be able to move the needle to ensure that people can actually get to the point of equal justice access as a citizen. Even then, just being able to access services as an individual instead of as an LGBT person whether actual or perceived, as those notions and levels of stigma and discrimination are real.” Placide pointed out.
In the meantime, the ECADE head is reiterating the need to protect the rights of all individuals as enshrined in the constitution of every country across the Caribbean. “The constitution is about protecting everybody,” Placide asserted.