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News > Latin America

Caribbean Court Declares Anti-Homosexual Law Unconstitutional

  • Caribbean people wave a flag of the LGTBI+ community.

    Caribbean people wave a flag of the LGTBI+ community. | Photo: Twitter/ @Openly

Published 6 July 2022

Antigua & Barbuda's "Sexual Offenses Act" stipulated 15 years in prison for homosexual relations between adults, and 5 years for homosexual practices between minors.

On Wednesday, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) declared "unconstitutional" Antigua and Barbuda's "Sexual Offenses Act" (SOA) which has criminalized same-sex relationships since 1995. Judge Marissa Robertson made that decision in response to constitutional rights violation lawsuits filed by a gay man and the "Women Against Rape" group.


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Robertson explained that sections 12 and 15 of the SOA violate sections 3, 12 and 17 of the Antigua and Barbuda's Constitution, which state the right to freedom of expression and protections against gender-related discrimination. The ECSC judge also pointed out that the SOA is inconsistent with the rights of people over the age of 16 to have sex in private.

Due to considerations such as the above, the Court decided that the part of the law mentioning the intercourse between "a man and a woman" should be deleted and replaced with the word "persons." In this way, that SOA will preserve constitutional rights.

Until now, the Sexual Offenses Act stipulated a life sentence for the person who maintains homosexual relations with a minor, 15 years in prison for those who have homosexual relationship with an adult, and 5 years in prison for homosexual practices between minors.

Andrew O'Kola, legal representative for the plaintiffs, said the Court's decision is "a victory and a step toward ending discrimination" against people whose sexual orientation might privately differentiate them from others. "Every adult has the right to love and express their love in the way they want, without the intrusion of the State," he emphasized.

In 2020, the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) judicially challenged the constitutionality of the Antigua an Barbuda's Sexual Offenses Act, arguing that it was an “invasive and unconstitutional remnants of colonial law.”

“ECADE recognises all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people in Antigua and Barbuda, whose lives, livelihoods and happiness are no longer compromised by these outdated laws," the group said on Wednesday.


Andrew O'Kola
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