The High Court of Justice in St. Kitts and Nevis has struck down anti-LGBTQ+ laws that have existed since the British colonial era, the second time in less than two months that an Eastern Caribbean nation has struck down such laws.
Justice Trevor M. Ward ruled this week that the “buggery” sections of St. Kitts’ Offences Against the Person Act contravene constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and protection of personal privacy.
Nadia Chiesa, a partner with Canadian law firm WeirFoulds, and Anthony Ross, who used to live in Canada and now practices in both Canada and the Caribbean, led the challenge, which was brought by a citizen, Jamal Jeffers, and the St. Kitts and Nevis Alliance for Equality, with the support of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality.
The decision comes on the heels of a similar ruling in Antigua and Barbuda in July.
The St. Kitts and Nevis decision is the second judgment in a five-country legal challenge launched by ECADE in 2020. Challenges in Barbados and Saint Lucia are expected to be concluded before the end of 2022.
“Our strategy has been multilayered; working with activists on the ground, our colleagues, friends, allies and family. This win is part of the transformative journey to full recognition of LGBTQ persons across the 11-nation Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States,” said Kenita Placide, executive director of ECADE.
Chiesa and Ross worked alongside a team of Caribbean lawyers led by Douglas Mendes of Trinidad and Veronica Cenac of Saint Lucia, with the support of the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Law Rights Advocacy Project.
“It’s encouraging to see this decision come so soon after these laws were overturned in Antigua and Barbuda. While there is much work ahead, it represents another important step forward as St. Kitts and Nevis becomes the fourth country in the Eastern Caribbean to strike down these outdated, colonial laws,” Chiesa said.
Discriminatory sexual offense laws and criminal codes in the islands date back to the British colonial era and unfairly target LGBTQ+ people, ECADE said in a statement. Although custodial sentences are rarely imposed, those convicted under these laws can face imprisonment for up to 10 years.
According to UNAIDS, seven countries in the Caribbean still criminalize gay sex between consenting adults. All are former British colonies: Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.