Historical Judgement: St Kitts and Nevis strikes down buggery law

Historical Judgement: St Kitts and Nevis strikes down buggery law

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St Kitts and Nevis: In the second case of historical precedent, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis (St Kitts and Nevis) has affirmed the constitutional rights of LGBTQI citizens by striking down the country’s buggery law. The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) and the Saint Kitts Nevis Alliance for Equality (SKNAFE) welcome this repeal of anti-LGBTQ laws in St. Kitts and Nevis.

In declaring void sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, the High Court of Justice in St. Kitts and Nevis affirms the laws that criminalise consensual, private sexual acts between adults to be unconstitutional.

Justice Trevor M Ward QC held that sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, known as the buggery laws, contravene the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and protection of personal privacy.

Following a similar ruling in Antigua and Barbuda delivered on the 27th of June 2022, these laws have been declared void in the twin-island Federation of St Kitts and Nevis. The buggery offence continues to be in force in circumstances where the sexual acts involve the population.

In 2020, this judgement was counted as the second progression in the five-country legal challenge launched by ECADE. Furthermore, the decision was lauded by ECADE, on behalf of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people in St Kitts and Nevis and across the Caribbean, whose privacy and these outdated laws no longer compromise security.

Executive Director of ECADE, Kenita Placide, says of the ruling, “[Of] the seven Caribbean and 34 Commonwealth countries that criminalised same-sex intimacy, this is the second to strike down these discriminatory laws in 2022. Our strategy has been multilayered, working with activists on the ground, colleagues, friends, allies and family. The win will indeed count as a p transformative journey to full recognition of LGBTQ persons across the OECS. It is a definitive yes to change, yes to privacy, yes to freedom of expression, and we are happy to be part of this historic moment.”

“This decision strongly establishes that a person’s sexuality should never be the basis for any discrimination,” says Tynetta McKoy, Executive Director of SKNAFE. “We welcome the recognition of this fact, one for which we have long advocated.” SKNAFE and Jamal Jeffers were claimants in this case, which the Attorney General contested on behalf of the Government of the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis.

ECADE remains committed to challenging the harmful beliefs that underpin these laws and create an atmosphere where stigma and discrimination against individuals perceived to be LGBTQ+ are acceptable.

Appearing in this case on behalf of the claimants were E Anthony Ross QC of E Anthony Ross Professional Services and Nadia Chiesa of WeirFoulds LLP. ECADE’s partners include a team of Caribbean lawyers and the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP). The legal team is led by Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes SC and Veronica SP Cenac, Attorney-at-Law.

Discriminatory Sexual Offences Laws and Criminal Codes in the islands date back to the British colonial era and unfairly target LGBTQ+ people. Although custodial sentences are rarely imposed, those convicted under these laws can face imprisonment for up to ten years. Other constitutional challenges in Barbados and Saint Lucia are expected to be concluded before the end of 2022.