Joy as Caribbean Nation Dominica Decriminalises Homosexuality


In a victory for equality in the Caribbean, the High Court of the island nation Dominica has struck down colonial-era laws that criminalised same-sex intimacy.

The Court ruled on Monday that sections 14 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) are unconstitutional under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica.

The case was brought to the court by a gay man who was not publicly identified. He asserted that as an openly gay man, these laws caused him to “live with great condemnation and fear not only for himself but others who are a part of the LGBT community in Dominica.”

The Court ruled that sections 14 and 16 violated the right to liberty, freedom of expression, and protection of personal privacy, which are guaranteed by the Constitution.

It stated that the criminalisation of homosexuality is an “unjustifiable restriction on the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression in a free and democratic society.”

Additionally, the court ruled that, “Private and family life and the personal sphere which includes one’s sexual identity and orientation as well as intimate activity with a partner of a person’s choice,” should be protected.

It said that the discriminatory provisions contravened the Constitution “insofar as they intrude on the private home life of an individual by proscribing the choice of consenting adults as to whom to engage in intimate sexual activity with, and are therefore, void.”

Dominica is the sixth country in the Caribbean to decriminalise same-sex relations. Activists said that the development not only advances human rights for everyone but will also help the region to speed up its progress towards ending new HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths, and stigma.

“Today another Caribbean Court has struck down the harmful old colonial punitive law which had criminalised LGBTQ people,” commented Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, adding that “Protecting the human rights of all people is essential to protect the health of all people.”

Téa Braun, Chief Executive Of The Human Dignity Trust, described the court’s ruling as a resounding victory for the LGBT community of Dominica.

“There are now only five countries in the Americas where laws that have been in place since colonial times and that criminalise LGBT people continue to dwell on the statute books,” Braun said. “Today’s decision sends a clear message to those remaining five that they must now accelerate the pace of change and remove their stigmatising laws or remain as outliers.”

The ruling follows the recent disappointing decision by the High Court in St Vincent and the Grenadines to not overturn that country’s ban on same-sex intimacy.

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