Victory for equality as Barbados decriminalises homosexuality


In a landmark ruling, the Barbados High Court has struck down the island nation’s colonial-era ban on same-sex sexuality.

The court issued an oral ruling on Monday repealing two sections of the Sexual Offences Act which criminalised “buggery” and “serious indecency” after finding them to be unconstitutional.

Under section 9 of the act, the punishment could lead to life imprisonment for men engaging in same-sex sexual activity. Under section 12, both men and women were criminalised and liable to up to 10 years imprisonment.

The case was filed by two Barbadian LGBT advocates with support from the organisations Equals Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE).

ECADE said that the judgement “consolidates the rights of all Barbadians to privacy and freedom of expression, and impacts LGBTQ+ people across the eastern Caribbean.”

Details of the ruling will be included in a written judgement that is expected to be handed down in January.

The decision was welcomed by UNAIDS which said that “laws that punish consensual same-sex relations… sustain stigma and discrimination against LGBT people and stop LGBT people seeking and receiving healthcare for fear of being punished or detained.” It added: “Decriminalisation saves and changes lives and builds stronger societies.”

Cristian González Cabrera, a Human Rights Watch LGBT Rights Programme researcher, said “the Barbados court did the right thing” and called on other governments “to respect people’s right to privacy and strike down discriminatory intimacy laws.”

Cabrera wrote that “criminalising same-sex intimacy violates international norms and standards, including the human rights to privacy and to be protected against arbitrary and unlawful interference with, or attacks on, one’s private and family life and one’s reputation or dignity.”

Barbados is the third Caribbean nation to decriminalise homosexuality this year, after courts in Antigua and Barbuda and St Kitts and Nevis made similar rulings.

Six countries in the Caribbean, all of them former British colonies, continue to criminalise gay sex between consenting adults. They are Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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