IACHR takes note of the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice concerning rape

February 23, 2022

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) takes note of the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) with regard to Barbados, issued on February 1, 2022 in the case of Commissioner of Police v. Stephen Alleyne. The IACHR considers this decision to be a step forward in the protection of all victims of rape, including LGBTI persons.

In its decision, the CCJ determined that the scope of the crime of rape in the Sexual Offences Act is not restricted on the basis of the gender of the victim or of the aggressor. By concluding that both men and women can be victims of rape, the ruling expands the State's ability to protect them. This protection includes LGBTI persons, by allowing them to access justice in cases of rape.

The case arose from the decision of Barbados's domestic courts to dismiss the case of a man accused of rape on the grounds that a man cannot be charged with rape when the victim is another man, since the applicable charge would be the so-called crime of "buggery," which is still in force in domestic law. By this logic, the victim could also be criminalized and the violence he has suffered ignored.

The IACHR firmly reasserts that the mere existence of laws that criminalize consensual relations between adults of the same sex has harmful effects for LGBTI persons and for the whole of society, including challenges to effective access to justice. In addition, the fact that these laws remain in force creates an environment of tolerance for discrimination against people based on the real or perceived diversity of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thus, the Inter-American Commission urges the States that still retain this type of legislation to repeal it immediately. Likewise, the Commission encourages these States to continue taking steps toward ensuring the right to a life free from all types of violence and discrimination, including protections against sexual violence.

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.

No. 038/22

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