IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the ruling in the case of Jamal Jeffers and others v. the Attorney General of Saint Christopher and Nevis, which found that the sections of the colonial-era Offences Against the Person Act of Saint Kitts and Nevis punishing adult consensual same-sex activity violate the country's Constitution. IACHR notes the transformative impact of judicial decision-making in the Caribbean, which has allowed for increased protection of the human rights of LGBTI persons in that region, which is in line with Inter-American standards.
In its historic decision on August 29, the High Court of Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court held that the offense known as ‘sodomy,' contained in Section 56 of the Offences Against the Person Act, violates the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and, as such, is null and void and of no force and effect to the extent that it criminalizes any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults. The Court likewise found that the offense known as ‘attempt to commit an infamous crime,' contained in Section 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act, violates the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and, as such, is null, void and of no force and effect to the extent that it criminalizes any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults. The decision adopted a human rights approach, including an analysis of international jurisprudence protecting the rights of LGBTI persons.
The Commission celebrates the work of civil society and human rights activists in the Caribbean who are challenging laws and policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their efforts have enabled the creation of legislation, judgments, and policies that respect the human rights of LGBTI persons.
Earlier this year, the Commission celebrated a similar decision in Antigua and Barbuda. In light of this new ruling, the IACHR reiterates that the criminalization of consensual relationships violates the principle of equality and non-discrimination, as well as the right to privacy. Laws criminalizing consensual sexual relations between adults contribute to a hostile environment that tolerates and even condones discrimination, stigmatization, and violence against LGBTI persons. For example, these laws have been used to justify arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture. Additionally, the mere existence of such laws negatively affects the mental health of LGBTI persons, as they are a source of anxiety and depression.
The IACHR calls on all the States in the Americas to repeal laws that criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults or allow for the prosecution of LGBTI persons in any other form. States must also take positive action to create a legal framework to protect LGBTI persons from all forms of discrimination.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.