Dominica Court To Hear Constitutional Challenge Of Anti-Gay Laws

(CMC) – The Minority Rights Dominica (MiRiDom) and the HIV Legal Network say they remain hopeful that the country’s High Court of Justice will follow Antigua and Barbuda and St Kitts and Nevis in repealing laws that criminalize LGBT people in the Caribbean.

The High Court will on Wednesday begin hearing a constitutional challenge from a homosexual man, who is seeking to have two sections of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) that criminalize consensual same-sex activities ruled unconstitutional.

The case to end the criminalisation of LGBT people in Dominica is supported by MiRiDom and the HIV Legal Network, working alongside the claimant.

The groups said in a statement that under sections 14 and 16 of the SOA, sexual activity between consenting partners of the same sex is prohibited, offences that were first enacted in 1873 when Dominica was under British colonial rule.

“The case being heard today was launched by a man who has faced discrimination, hostility, and horrific violence in Dominica because he is gay,” they said.

They added that Dominica’s 1978 Constitution guarantees the rights to privacy, protection from discrimination, liberty, security of the person, freedom from inhumane or degrading punishment, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association.

The statement also quoted the claimant saying that he has endured discrimination, threats, harassment, and violence because of his sexual orientation.

“The perpetrators of such acts find a sense of comfort and safety in the laws that criminalise buggery and gross indecency. These laws are not only discriminatory themselves, but they incite and encourage hateful and violent conduct towards LGBT individuals,” they said.

“The laws also condone police inaction and discrimination and are harmful to public health by worsening the HIV epidemic. These laws must be repealed,” they added.

The MiRiDom and the HIV Legal Network say the continued criminalisation of consensual sex by LGBT groups, through sections 14 and 16 of the SOA, and the broader abuses against LGBT Dominicans have damaged too many lives.

“These are the lives not only of LGBT Dominicans, but also of their family members and friends who have lost loved ones to homophobic violence, or when those facing persecution have been forced to seek asylum elsewhere”.

“In the words of the claimant, who brought forward this challenge, “I hope to make a change that will allow the generations after me to live a better life as a gay person than what I have experienced.”

“We hope the court will see fit to make this critical change in support of human rights for all,” they added.

Earlier this month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in welcoming the ruling of the High Court in St Kitts and Nevis, found that the sections of the colonial-era Offences against the Person Act violated the country’s constitution.

The IACHR also noted that the transformative impact of judicial decision-making in the Caribbean has allowed for increased protection of the human rights of LGBT persons in that region and is in line with Inter-American standards.