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|UNAIDS Tuesday welcomed the ruling by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) striking down the buggery law in St Kitts-Nevis.
“This landmark ruling is an important step forward in ensuring equality and dignity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in St. Kitts and Nevis and the whole Caribbean,” said Luisa Cabal, UNAIDS Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Today, St Kitts and Nevis joins a growing list of Caribbean nations that have overturned these colonial-era laws that deny people’s human rights and hold back the response to the HIV pandemic. Everyone benefits from decriminalisation.”
UNAIDS said that laws that punish consensual same sex relations, in addition to contravening the human rights of LGBT people, are a significant obstacle to improving health outcomes, including in the HIV response.
It said such laws help to sustain stigma and discrimination against LGBT people and are barriers to LGBT people seeking and receiving healthcare for fear of being punished or detained.
On Monday, High Court judge, Justice Trevor M Ward upheld a motion by Jamal Jeffers, a self-described gay man, who challenged the constitutionality that sections 56 and 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, criminalises buggery and indecent assault against males respectively.
Jeffers, a citizen of St Kitts-Nevis as well as the second claimant, the St Kitts and Nevis Alliance for Equality (SKNAFE), had in a motion dated January 28 last year, sought declarations that sections 56 and section 57 of the Act contravene the constitutional rights enshrined in sections 3, 7, 12 and 15 of the Constitution of the twin island Federation.
In his ruling, the judge said that Section 56 of the Offences Against the Person Act, contravenes sections 3 and 12 of the Constitution “namely, the right to protection of personal privacy and the right to freedom of expression, and, as such, is null and void and of no force and effect to the extent that it criminalises any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults”.
Justice Ward said also that Section 57 of the Act also contravenes the Constitution “namely the right to protection of personal privacy and the right to freedom of expression, and, as such, is null and void and of no force and effect to the extent that it criminalises any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults”.
UNSIDS said that the ruling by the High Court follows a similar High Court decision for Antigua and Barbuda in July. Courts in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago have also repealed sections of their legal codes that criminalized same-sex sexual relations.
There remain seven countries in the Caribbean that criminalise gay sex between consenting adults, all of them former British colonies. They are Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Caribbean civil society is determined, and Caribbean courts are clear. The clock is ticking on these damaging colonial laws,” the agency said while noting, “countries that have still not taken these laws off the books need to do so as a matter of urgency, for the health and human rights of all their people.”
UNAIDS said the court ruling reduces to 68 the number of countries worldwide criminalising same-sex sexual relations. Earlier this month, Singapore announced that it is repealing legislation that punished gay sex by a prison sentence of up to two years.