The High Court of Saint Kitts and Nevis has struck down anti-LGBTQ+ laws that have existed since British colonial times, the second time in less than two months that an Eastern Caribbean nation has struck down such laws.
Judge Trevor M. Ward ruled this week that the sodomy sections of the St. Kitts Offenses Against the Person Act violate the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and privacy.
Nadia Chiesa, a partner at Canadian law firm WeirFoulds, and Anthony Ross, who lived in Canada and now practices in Canada and the Caribbean, led the challenge, which was started by citizen Jamal Jeffers and the St. Kitts. and the Nevis Alliance for Equality, with support from the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality.
This decision follows a similar decision rendered in Antigua and Barbuda in July.
The Saint Kitts and Nevis ruling 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 multi-layered; working with activists on the ground, our colleagues, friends, allies and family. This victory is part of the transformative journey towards full recognition of LGBTQ people in the 11-nation Organization 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 from Trinidad and Veronica Cenac from Saint Lucia, with support from the University of the West Indies Law School Advocacy Project .
“It is heartening to see this decision come so soon after these laws were overturned in Antigua and Barbuda. While there is a lot of work to be done, this represents another significant step forward as St. Kitts and Nevis becomes the fourth country in the Eastern Caribbean to repeal these outdated colonial laws,” said Chiesa.
Discriminatory sexual offense laws and criminal codes on the islands date back to the British colonial era and unfairly target LGBTQ+ people, ECADE said in a statement. Although custodial sentences are rarely handed down, those convicted under these laws can face up to 10 years in prison.
According to UNAIDS, seven Caribbean countries still criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults. All are former British colonies: Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.