Tuesday 10 December, 2019

Rights group to challenge buggery laws in Barbados

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) has signaled their plans to launch a legal challenge to the buggery laws in five Caribbean territories- Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St Lucia.

In a statement released recently, ECADE noted the existing legislation governing buggery and indecency laws in these countries were "draconian laws of our colonial past". 

“This is four years in the making. While the process of litigation is important, the main part of this journey was to strengthen the organisations and the communities within the countries they serve.

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We also needed to understand how these laws contribute to the stigmatisation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people, how they legitimise hate speech, discrimination and violence and tear at the heart of the family that our society, including our governments, have sworn to protect,” Executive Director of ECADE, Kenita Placide outlined in the statement.

The legal challenges, which are expected to be filed by the end of 2019, is the result of a process which commenced with a meeting organised by United and Strong of Saint Lucia and GrenCHAP of Grenada in 2015. The statement noted organisations representing LGBTQI people and other marginalised groups from seven islands in the eastern Caribbean came together for the first time, shared experiences and strategies, and created the regional advocacy hub that is ECADE.

The statement went onto say, although the legislation regarding same-sex unions is not imposed, it "unfairly" targets persons of the LGBT community.

"Adult, consensual, same-sex intimacy is criminalised in nine Caribbean countries, all of which are members of the Commonwealth. Discriminatory Penal Codes on the islands date back to the British colonial era, and unfairly target LGBT people."

Veronica Cenac, a Saint Lucian-based lawyer who serves on the board of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, said, “these archaic laws violate the fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitutions including the right to equality, privacy, freedom of expression, personal liberty, non-discrimination and protection against inhuman and degrading treatment.”

The cases filed by ECADE on behalf of member organisations and citizens who are affected by the laws, is the culmination of a four-year process coming out of the Grenada meeting. 

In Barbados, under the Sexual Offences Act, buggery is listed as an offence for which a person, if convicted, can be sentenced to life in prison. For sexual indecency, the law stipulates a person found guilty can spend up to ten years in prison. 

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